The Digital Service Act (DSA), which comes fully into effect in February 2024, confers obligations on digital platforms and search engines above a certain number of size to ensure the fundamental rights of European citizens are respected online.
Within the next few months, the European Commission, responsible for the enforcement of the DSA, is expected to publish a supplementary set of guidelines outlining some of these responsibilities.
Under Articles 34 and 35 of the DSA, service providers designated as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs), such as Facebook Meta, and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs), such as Google, are required to conduct risk assessments to determine the risks their services pose to civic discourse and elections, and to take steps to mitigate these.
Civil Liberties Union For Europe (Liberties) in collaboration with the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) has produced a paper to inform the discussion on how to ensure robust protection of civic discourse and electoral processes under the DSA.
The paper’s focus is limited to the obligations contained in Article 34.1(c) of the DSA, which it interprets as creating a responsibility to maintain democratic stability, which includes the ability to freely conduct political discussions and form political opinion in the EU. Based on comprehensive research, it outlines a structured and temporal approach for identifying potential risks to democratic “civic discourse” and “electoral processes”, and proposes mitigating measures.
In the coming weeks, Liberties and EPD will actively engage with relevant stakeholders, including the European Commission, VLOPs, VLOSEs, researchers, and civil society organizations, to discuss the proposed risk assessments and mitigation measures. Through ongoing discussion, collaboration and advocacy efforts, Liberties and EPD aim to drive the practical implementation and enforcement of these recommendations (or upon need, a next version of them), ultimately contributing to a more responsible and accountable digital environment.