European Union (EU) civil society organizations, led by EFF and Access Now, are keeping a sharp eye on the myriad proposals to amend the European Commission’s Digital Services Act (DSA) ahead of important committee votes in the European Parliament (EP). We want to see the DSA, which will overhaul regulations for online platforms, foster a new era of transparency and openness between tech platforms and Internet users. It should protect fundamental rights online and provide Europeans with greater control over their Internet experience.
To ensure the DSA is moving in the right direction, we are calling on the European Parliament to reject proposals that cross the line to undermine pillars of the e-Commerce Directive crucial in a free and democratic society. In a letter to members of Parliament today, we are sending a clear message that free speech online, protection of marginalized groups, and respect for users’ private communication are key principles that should not be up for negotiation.
Keep Limited Liability Exemptions
Specifically, proposals by the EP Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) to limit liability exemptions for internet companies that perform basic functions of content moderation and content curation would contradict EU Court of Justice case law and result in over-removal of legitimate content at large scale. These dangerous ideas, up for committee vote this week, should be rejected. The DSA should make sure that online intermediaries continue to benefit from comprehensive liability exemptions in the EU and not be held liable for content provided by users. Any modifications that result in short-sighted content removals of legitimate speech or which otherwise do not comply with fundamental rights protections under the EU Charter and the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice should be rejected.
Protect User Privacy, Reject Filters
Further, measures that would force companies to analyze and indiscriminately monitor users’ communication or use upload filters have no place in the DSA. Protecting the privacy of users and their personal data is a fundamental right laid down in the EU Charter. They should honor users’ expectation of privacy and protect their right to communicate free of monitoring and censorship.
Don’t Treat Ordinary Internet Users as Second-Class Citizens
We are extremely concerned about trusted flaggers proposals that favor the powerful and would give politicians and popular public figures special advantages not available to ordinary users. Government and law enforcement agencies would get first-class treatment if platforms are obligated to prioritize their notices. This not only opens the door to misuse, but affords ordinary users second-class treatment—an anathema to free expression in democratic societies. Platforms should not be forced to apply one set of rules to ordinary users and a more permissive set of rules to influencer accounts and politician.
For the letter to the European Parliament:
For more on the DSA:
For the statement by Access Now:
Source: EFF, Access Now, and Partners to European Parliament: Free Speech, Privacy and Other Fundamental Rights Should Not be Up for Negotiation in the Digital Services Act