The Digital Service Act (DSA) must not be exploited in times of conflict or crisis. Access Now and ARTICLE 19, along with 28 other global civil society organisations, have written to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, urging him to respect due process when enforcing the DSA in the context of ongoing armed conflict and unprecedented violence against civilians in the Gaza Strip and Israel. Read the open letter.
As the Israeli-Hamas conflict escalates, Commissioner Breton has written to Meta, X, TikTok, and YouTube, regarding the spread of related disinformation and illegal content on their respective platforms. Invoking the DSA, he has made several demands of these companies, which Access Now, ARTICLE 19 and partners believe to be at odds with the DSA itself.
In his letters to the Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs), Commissioner Breton conflates the DSA’s treatment of illegal content and disinformation. But the latter is not automatically illegal. The DSA imposes due diligence obligations on VLOPs that tackle systemic risks stemming from such content rather than prioritising swift content removals. The DSA also does not include any mention of a 24-hour timeframe for VLOPs to respond to notifications of alleged illegal content, despite Commissioner Breton’s demands.
The people of Gaza are already experiencing a near-total telecommunications blackout. During armed conflicts and violence, social media platforms are a lifeline for people to document human rights violations and share real-time security updates. While platforms must diligently combat content that risks people’s safety, unjustifiably restricting access to vital information is equally dangerous.
Access Now, ARTICLE 19, and co-signatories support robust enforcement of the DSA, but not at the expense of due process and the rule of law. Commissioner Breton must clarify the requirements set out in his letters to VLOPs, to ensure they uphold, rather than undermine, the DSA itself.