SYRIZA - Progressive Alliance MEPs, Dimitris Papadimoulis, Kostas Arvanitis, Alexis Georgoulis, Petros Kokkalis, Stelios Kouloglou and Elena Kountoura received a response by the European Commission to their question regarding the protection of freedom of expression on social media.
After the recent increasing cases of censorship, either by deleting posts, imposing severe restrictions and / or suspending users’ profiles, and the issue of functioning democracy which is related to the freedom of expression of citizens, SYRIZA - Progressive Alliance MEPs asked the European Commission about the content management mechanisms developed by the private social networking platforms and the effective protection of citizens` rights.
On behalf of the European Commission, Commissioner of Internal Market, Thierry Breton, emphasized the importance of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in addressing a number of challenges posed by the rapid development of digital services, noting, inter alia that the European Commission`s proposal for digital services “aims to clarify the responsibilities and strengthen the accountability of intermediary service providers. Under the proposed DSA, online platforms will be subject to a clear legal framework”.
Commissioner Breton does not substantially answer the question of the SYRIZA - Progressive Alliance MEPs about the measures that the Commission intends to take until the digital services act enters into force. He emphasized, however, that “the proposed DSA protects users from arbitrary content moderation. It will oblige online platforms to be transparent and non-discriminatory in their policies, in full respect of fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter”, acknowledging indirectly the problem that exists today.
You can find below the question and the answer:
Question for written answer E-001496/2021
To the Commission
Dimitrios Papadimoulis (The Left), Alexis Georgoulis (The Left), Petros Kokkalis (The Left), Stelios Koulogloy (The Left), Konstantinos Arvanitis (The Left)
The social media provide a public forum for exchanges of views regarding the social and political scene and are exercising a growing influence on public opinion. At the same time, they are, to a growing extent, interfering with content, invoking their conditions of use to delete posts or suspend user accounts. This raises serious issues directly related to democratic freedom of expression(1), something that has thus far been left to the management mechanisms developed by the private networking platforms concerned. Aware of the need to protect citizens’ rights in the digital age, the Commission has recently issued a proposal for the Digital Services Act(2), the provisions of which are applicable to platforms across the board, especially regarding freedom of expression.
In view of this:
Does the Commission consider the content management mechanisms developed by private social media platforms to be adequate and secure?
What action has it taken with a view to protecting citizens’ rights more effectively and, in consultation with users, creating, implementing and keeping under review a transparent framework for their participation, bearing in mind the serious breaches of their rights by the platforms?
What measures will it take to effectively protect citizens’ rights, in particular freedom of expression, pending entry into force of the Digital Services Act?
See also the European Parliament resolution of 20 October 2020 on the Digital Services Act and fundamental rights issues posed, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0274_EN.html
Answer given by Mr. Breton
On behalf of the European Commission
In response to the challenges posed by the rapid development of digital services, the Commission proposed the Digital Services Act (DSA)(1), which aims to clarify the responsibilities and strengthen the accountability of intermediary service providers. Under the proposed DSA, online platforms will be subject to a clear legal framework.
Whilst recognising that the freedom of contract of online platforms should be respected, the proposed DSA protects users from arbitrary content moderation.
It will oblige online platforms to be transparent and non-discriminatory in their policies, in full respect of fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter(2). The proposal also includes rules for very large online platforms to assess and mitigate negative effects their systems have on freedom of expression. The DSA proposal enables users to contest the platforms’ decisions to remove content, including when based on their terms and conditions.
Users will have the right to complain to the platform, choose an out-of-court dispute settlement, or seek redress before the courts.
The proposed DSA lays down one set of rules for the entire EU, protecting citizens’ rights across the Union. An EU-wide enforcement system and governance framework will ensure oversight and uniform application of the proposed regulation across the Union.
Recognising that democracy requires more determined action to preserve open democratic debate, the European Democracy Action Plan(3) announced various actions to be taken to address disinformation, developing accountability standards for online platforms in this regard, and promote respect in the public debate.