The EU must hold VLOPs accountable

Victories in the DSA vote: IMCO Committee puts people’s rights before corporate interest

Access Now welcomes important victories green-lighted by the Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) in yesterday’s Digital Services Act (DSA) vote, indicating concrete steps towards the further protection of freedom of expression and opinion online across the European Union. Since the beginning of negotiations, Access Now has fought side-by-side with partner organisations to protect freedom of expression and opinion online, while countering short-sighted proposals that would only bolster the undesirable status quo in the content governance in defiance of fundamental rights standards.  

“We see victories in yesterday’s DSA vote. The fact that the IMCO Committee did not cave in to corporate interest, and centred people’s empowerment and their fundamental rights in the negotiations is an encouraging sign for the next stages,” said Eliska Pirkova, Europe Policy Analyst and the Global Freedom of Expression Lead at Access Now. “But there is still room for improvement, and the fight for a truly human rights centric model of platform governance will continue throughout the trilogue negotiations, where we must fix prevailing issues in the text. Yesterday’s vote is a reason to celebrate, but there is more hard work to ensure the protection of free expression and opinion online on the horizon.”    

Access Now particularly acknowledges the IMCO Committee’s work around: 

  • Persevering on a conditional model of intermediary liability, and upholding the prohibition of general monitoring;  
  • Steering clear of short deadlines for content removals and strict removal obligations that lead to over-removal of legitimate content and  trigger the reliance on automated content detection and identification tools; 
  • Adding concrete measures against dark patterns; 
  • Including legally mandated criteria for increased meaningful transparency directly imposed on online platforms, with specific transparency measures targeting Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs);
  • Strengthening risk assessment and mitigation of risks measures that include specific reference to language and region-specific risks and to algorithms deployed in both content moderation and content curation; and
  • Including better safeguards for independent audits and the independence of auditors.  

While this vote is an important step in the negotiations, Access Now will continue to work on safeguarding fundamental rights protections within the DSA proposal in trilogue negotiations under the upcoming French and Czech presidencies, and urges EU co-legislators to prioritise: 

  • Tightening the regulation of online advertisement, as proposed by Access Now
  • Ensuring that the media exemption will not be included in the text for the plenary vote;
  • Incorporating better safeguards for online anonymity; and
  • Incorporating improved safeguards for law enforcement access to people’s sensitive data, including authorisation of access by judicial authorities.