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Digital Services Act – a Blueprint for New Digital Regulation

Strong regulation of digital services is needed to protect media freedom and freedom of expression, and guarantee the sustainability of journalism and media organisations.

Author: Tom Law | 14. December 2021

The Global Forum for Media Development along with many other organisations and experts is advocating to make sure that the European Commission’s proposal for the regulation of digital services, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA) guarantees a digital space that creates a suitable environment for journalism and media organisations, and that it provides appropriate safeguards for protection of fundamental rights, especially Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression. 

How has GFMD been working in this area?
GFMD has been closely following the development of the DSA and other relevant EU regulatory processes by facilitating exchanges of information and joint actions through our EU Media Advocacy group and we continue to monitor issues that might impact journalists and media organisations in the digital sphere. 

Why is EU legislation important to the wider GFMD community?
GFMD believes that strong legislation in the European Union, that regulates digital platforms with recognition of the role that professional journalism plays online, has the potential to benefit not only media organisations and journalists but also citizens around the world. For instance, as was the case with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), countries outside the EU are likely to continue to use online regulatory initiatives from the EU as inspiration or models for their own policy and regulation. 

Facilitating dialogue on the so-called “media exemption”
GFMD has been paying attention to the concerns around the so-called “media exemption” amendments, and since it is a very delicate topic, we held a meeting at the end of October to gather the different perspectives and concerns among the partner organisations in the EU Media Advocacy Working Group. We also attended a workshop on the  “media exemption” organised by the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) and we are closely following the ongoing debate.

With the voting in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) in the second week of December GFMD has contributed to and supported two petitions aimed at improving the final text of the Digital Services Act before it is voted on at the Strasbourg Plenary early next year. 

Open letter to Members of the European Parliament: Shape the DSA so it can empower all users to act against wrongful platform decisions – 3 December 2021

GFMD signed a letter by EU Disinfolab and HateAid, addressed to Members of the European Parliament asking them to shape the DSA so it 

  • empowers all users to act against wrongful platform decisions. 
  • makes platforms more democratic, transparent, and safer, by addressing the amendments concerning the mechanisms against wrongful actions of online platforms included in the DSA. 

The letter urged Members of the Parliament to:

  • vote in favour of the amendments in Article 17 that are aimed at broadening its application so users can also act when a platform has not removed or disabled access to a content (by including the wording “whether or not” in Art. 17 (1)) 
  • support amendments aimed at improving the internal complaint handling systems of platforms. This is key to fixing the existing asymmetries between users and platforms, giving users real possibilities to seek redress against wrongful actions (and inactions) by the platforms. 

After the concerns and the still ongoing debate on the so-called “media exemption” amendments in the DSA, GFMD believes that it is of utmost importance to secure a way to fight platforms’ decisions for everyone, whether or not media or journalists are accorded special treatment as this will help to build a more democratic digital space.  

DSA Human Rights Alliance statement for the members of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee – 9 December 2021

GFMD has also supported the DSA Human Rights Alliance statement asking members of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) to consider the following issues and vote in favour of those amendments related to among others:

  • the limits of automated decision making, the risks of content over-removals (Articles 5, 7, 14), 
  • the transparency obligations for providers of intermediary services (Art. 13), 
  • improving the provisions on risk assessment and mitigation of risk measures (Art. 26 and 27) 
  • strengthening the independence of auditors and their authority (Art. 28).

What next?
The Global Forum for Media Development firmly believes that these steps are essential to guarantee a digital space that creates a suitable environment for the development and the sustainability of journalism and media organisations, which also ensures, promotes and protects fundamental rights, especially media freedom and freedom of expression. We will continue engaging on these issues as we believe that the DSA needs to be implemented efficiently to have a real impact.

Get involved
If you are interested in taking part in debates around the DSA and other issues, consider joining the EU Media Advocacy Working Group – an informal network for organisations within the journalism support, media development, digital rights, media freedom, and wider democracy support communities conducting advocacy work within European Union (EU) institutions on media-related issues.

Please contact us at advocacy@gfmd.info if you are interested in joining the working group, or if you would like more information. 


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