On 20 January 2022, the European Parliament in Strasbourg’s plenary session will vote on the Digital Services Act (DSA), a bill designed to shape the digital future and clean up the Internet. In the future, illegal content shall be easier to delete, personalized advertising easier to change, manipulative ads shall be banned and access to important data improved. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomed the proposed DSA as a crucial and long overdue tool to create a safer, fairer and more accountable online environment. The EFJ advocates for a stronger DSA in order to guarantee a digital media ecosystem based on trust and audience engagement, in particular in the fight against disinformation.
In light of the upcoming vote, the EFJ calls on all MEPs to support an amendment which strengthens the terms and conditions of intermediary service providers (Article 12) – the online platforms – by enforcing full transparency and full compliance with European human rights standards and fundamental rights as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This includes Article 11 on media freedom and pluralism.
“We want a strong DSA and welcome the great work done by the European Parliament and the rapporteur Christel Schaldemose to strengthen this urgent regulatory framework. While the EFJ has distanced itself from a so-called media exemption from content moderation rules, it insists on guarantees that would prevent internet platforms from arbitrarily and unilaterally deleting journalistic content. We have therefore pledged all along to strengthen Article 12 and make sure that the platforms’ terms and conditions are bound to fundamental rights and media freedom,” said Renate Schroeder, EFJ Director. “We have to acknowledge that these privately owned platforms operate in the public sphere, which is denoted by their ‘quasi-public functions’ ever more setting the news agenda,” she added.
As the European Court of Human Rights has emphasised in previous court cases, online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, provide an “unprecedented” means for exercising freedom of expression online. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Irene Khan has among others argued that platforms “should incorporate directly principles of fundamental rights law into their terms of service”.
The EFJ endorses the following amendment 513:
AM Article 12(1) – Fundamental Rights Safeguard
Providers of intermediary services shall use fair, non-discriminatory and transparent terms and conditions. Providers of intermediary services shall draft those terms and conditions in clear, plain user friendly, and unambiguous language and shall make them publicly available in an easily accessible and machine-readable format in the languages of the Member State towards which the service is directed. In their terms and conditions, providers of intermediary services shall respect the freedom of expression, freedom and pluralism of the media, and other fundamental rights and freedoms, as enshrined in the Charter as well as the rules applicable to the media in the Union.