Liberties and other key human rights organizations have sent an open letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressing our concern over the drafting of the regulation to combat child abuse (CSAR) and how this process may have undermined the rule of law, the independence of the Commission and the democratic values of the EU.
The open letter follows allegations that the Commission gave AI companies special access to the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) Commissioner Ylva Johansson and certain staff members as they were drafting the CSAR. If true, this would be a serious breach of basic rule of law standards and bring into question the independence of the Commission.
It is further alleged that DG HOME then engaged in the unlawful and unethical micro-targeting of adverts on social media platforms to influence stakeholders about the law. Under the Digital Services Act, it is forbidden to target people based on their most sensitive data. The Commission seems to be breaching the law they are responsible for enforcing.
The allegations arise from investigations by media outlets and raise the possibility of a systematic failure within DG HOME to abide by Commission rules and principles regarding ethics, improved regulation objectives, and the protection of personal data.
These allegations undermine the Commission’s objectivity and credibility, as well as the trust of citizens – especially important ahead of the 2024 European elections.
While the Commission is offering a back door to the AI industry, they continue to refuse the involvement of CSOs, despite their role as watchdogs. This role has been reinforced in the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU. The European Court of Human Rights, in its 2009 decision related to Liberties’ member the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, has made clear that, in a democratic society, CSOs must be able to carry on their activities effectively and be able to rely on access to information as a part of freedom of expression.
The Court considered that obstacles created in order to hinder access to information of public interest may discourage those working in the media or related fields from pursuing such matters. As a result, they may no longer be able to play their vital role as “public watchdogs” and their ability to provide accurate and reliable information may be adversely affected.
In a democratic society, public authorities such as the Commission must be exposed to permanent scrutiny by the press, and also CSOs, in order to alert the public to situations that they consider unlawful. Involving selected AI developers in the decision-making processes while excluding CSOs is also hindering the better regulation approach of the EU.
Read the full open letter here.