The EU has passed two laws, the so-called Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Market Act (DMA), to combat fake news and disinformation and provide more consumer protection. These laws allow major platforms such as Google and Facebook to be monitored more closely and delete dangerous content. However, they also give the EU Commission more control over the media and the exchange of information on the Internet.
Digital Services Act
Recently, the European Union has passed two crucial laws, the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), were passed. These laws aim to combat fake news and disinformation and provide more consumer protection. At first glance, this may all sound positive, but in this blog post I would like to highlight the downsides of this legislation. In particular, I will discuss the potential risks to freedom of expression and public discourse. At first glance, the main goals of the DSA are laudable: combating fake news and disinformation and improving consumer protection. It also allows for greater monitoring of major platforms such as Google and Facebook. Who wouldn't want dangerous or misleading content removed from the Internet? But it is essential to question how this monitoring is carried out and whether it is really in the public interest. Other questions that arise include: Who is monitoring the monitors? And what level of monitoring is acceptable before it infringes on our freedoms? And then who decides what is or is not Fake News? During the Covid pandemic, even recognized experts with academic titles in the field were accused of spreading Fake News.
Restriction of freedom of expression
What worries me is the possible restriction of freedom of expression. Under the guise of fighting fake news, disagreeable opinions could simply be labeled as "disinformation" and censored; this is already happening, although not to the extent that has been announced. This could lead to an atmosphere of self-censorship, where people are afraid to express their opinions openly for fear of reprisals. And this is not without reason; in various social networks, people are already the target of verbal attacks if they express an opinion that the respective filter bubble does not want to accept.
Control over media and information exchange
Another point of concern is the EU Commission's increased control over the media and the exchange of information. Who decides what is "illegal content" or "fake news"? And which media receive public support? That is now in the hands of the EU Commission. This could lead to one-sided reporting that steers public opinion in a certain direction. Because already today, certain news pages cannot be found in Google search if you search for the page title; only if you include the domain of the website do you get the search results you are looking for.
Reporting obligation for companies
Companies must now report "criminal activity" immediately. This sounds good at first, but it can lead to misuse and monitoring. The question arises as to whether companies are able to correctly identify such activities and how this information could then be used. After all, if companies fail to comply with the obligation, they face financial penalties, and so are more likely to censor and react more sensitively rather than too slowly. After all, the company ends up with the financial loss if it reacts too slowly.
Interventions in emergency situations
In emergency situations such as pandemics or wars, policymakers can take action and ask platforms to remove certain content. This carries the risk of influencing the flow of information. In such situations, information that the public should know could be suppressed, as happened with the Facebook Files and Twitter Files became known.
Comparison with Orwell's '1984
When I compare the DSA with George Orwell's dystopian novel '1984', I see disturbing parallels. In '1984', there is a 'Ministry of Truth', which is the Control over information and the definition of 'truth'. Similarly, the DSA and the EU Commission could function as a kind of modern Ministry of Truth. Of course the EU and also no politician would call it so, would be too obvious, but who decides then what is the truth and what is not the truth? Who makes this decision about the truth?
Having considered the various aspects of DSA, I cannot help but take its potential negative effects seriously. The risks to freedom of expression, control of the media and the possibility of abuse are too high to be ignored. We should be vigilant and critical of these developments.