On online moderation Europe has prepared hard work for big techs

On online moderation Europe has prepared hard work for big techs

On the night of Friday 22 April, after 16 hours of bargaining at the so-called trilogues, the tables where the representatives of the three European institutions, the Commission, Parliament and the Council, meet to find the right balance on European laws, a political agreement was found on Digital Services Act (Dsa). The DSA is the new European regulation, therefore the same in all 27 member countries, which updates the rules of online intermediaries, with different degrees of responsibility from startups to big techs. The text will update the 2000 ecommerce directive, analogous to the 1996 American standard of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has so far allowed sites and platforms to thrive through their role as intermediaries, without having to worry too much about hosting illegal content. The only requirement is that the platforms should proceed with the removal of the content once they become aware of its illegality.

The agreement of the final text on the Digital Services Act arrives in just under sixteen months from the publication of the proposal of the European Commission. For the times in Brussels and given the scope of the law, this is a very short time, a sign of a certain convergence of intent between the political groups and between the institutions. The file cannot yet be said to be closed as a definitive text for the final vote has not yet been published, which in any case will have to pass the final scrutiny of the Parliament in a few weeks.

What the DSA foresees According to reports from Parliament and the Council, pending the publication of the agreed text, the final text stipulates that the Commission and the Member States will have access to the algorithms of the large online platforms; users will be able to report illegal online content that must be removed quickly and platforms must offer greater guarantees on the subjects who use it to offer their products and services.

Users must be clearly explained how their contents are recommended, while for platforms dedicated to minors, specific measures must be guaranteed to protect them. The largest platforms will have to carry out an overall assessment of the existence of systematic risks that may favor the dissemination of illegal content, negative effects on fundamental rights, or have an impact on democratic processes and public security. These are those platforms that have more than 45 million monthly active users in Europe (very large online platforms or Vlop). The latter will be subject to control by the Commission, in order to avoid the slowdowns seen with the Gdpr. In the most serious cases, the sanctions will reach 6% of global turnover.

What happened to the trilogue According to the international organization Access Now, the text as a whole can be welcomed in a positive way. Access Now reports that the trilogue was rejected by a last-minute amendment that would have forced search engines to block or de-index illegal content from the results, with a risk of effective censorship for freedom of expression. Just as the obligation to provide a telephone number for those who upload pornographic content on dedicated sites has not passed which, according to Access Now, would not have adequately solved the problem of non-consensual nudity uploaded on these sites but at the same time would have reduced the right to online anonymity.

As in the text approved by Parliament in January, the illegality of profiling based on sensitive data such as religion, sex or political orientation was reiterated, just as the use was prohibited of dark patterns, those systems of colors and buttons that surreptitiously induce users to give their consent. Finally, Access Now reports that the amendment that would have ensured greater adoption of online communications encryption has not passed.

The obligation for platforms to offer an alternative of their feed to that customized according to the algorithm, such as the chronological one. On Twitter, for example, it is possible to switch from one mode to the other by clicking the icon at the top right.

The state of emergency Compared to the text approved by Parliament alone before the trilogue with the institutions, the more interesting news is the crisis mechanism, which sportsgaming.win Uk has explained in detail. In the event of imminent risks to public safety or health, the Commission will be able to intervene directly by prescribing certain obligations directly to the platforms. A prediction criticized by some commentators engaged in the protection of fundamental rights as such powers have not yet been well defined, although a limited duration of their effectiveness is still foreseen at three months. In fact, it should be remembered that this proposal was not present in either the original Commission proposal or in the one revised by Parliament as it was introduced during the trilogues a few days ago. The possibility of being able to activate the "state of emergency" therefore depends on a discretionary power of the Commission, and, although the underlying reasons, such as the war in Ukraine and the disinformation linked to Covid, make the reasons clear and understandable, the impact of this novelty would require greater scrutiny by civil society.

Dsa tested by Musk If the Dsa was approved in Europe, in those days the agreement with which the Twitter board accepted the purchase offer of Elon Musk for 44 billion was closed in the United States dollars. A few days later, thanks to Musk's position that he would like Twitter as a bulwark of freedom of expression (effectively deleting years and years of studies and events that demonstrate how total freedom leaves room for malevolent actors, effectively reducing that same freedom), there was a small, but very important, remote exchange of jokes on the meaning of freedom of expression between Musk and Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the internal market with a focus on digital.

Twitter content This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Musk sees Twitter as a bulwark of free expression, even if he then adjusts the game by saying that he understands as freedom of expression everything that falls within the perimeter of what is established by law.

Twitter content This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Breton in the same hours, probably reading some of Musk's statements, publishes a tweet stating that whatever the plan is Musk for Twitter, will have to follow the European rules, which provide for moderation and control obligations in Europe, those in the process of being approved in the coming weeks with the DSA.

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