RSF urges European Commission to enforce DSA with utmost firmness

Although the Digital Services Act (DSA), which was adopted on 19 October 2022, will not take effect for most service providers until next February, enforcement begins on 25 August for major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, X (ex-Twitter) and YouTube. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) offers its recommendations for the most determined and ambitious enforcement possible.

A total of 17 major platforms and two search engines with at least 45 million active users a month in the European Union (EU), including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, X, YouTube, Bing and Google Search have so far been designated as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) that must begin complying with the DSA on 25 August.

Under this important legislation, these major platforms are required to combat illegal content and disinformation more effectively, and to be transparent about their rules for moderation and content recommendation. They will have to submit to regular audits, assess the “systemic risks” they pose and remedy them.

"The Commission must not falter when facing the biggest platforms. The DSA gives it unprecedented legal resources. We urge the Commission to begin displaying the utmost firmness in its implementation of the DSA as soon as it takes effect.

Christophe Deloire
RSF secretary-general

Our recommendations for implementing the DSA

  • The Commission, the competent authority for monitoring correct application of the DSA by VLOPs, will have to delegate implementation of some of its provisions to independent third parties for expertise and even decision-making purposes. As well as providing the Commission with capacities that it does not have, this delegation will strengthen the legitimacy of the decisions taken and reduce the risk of challenges to its dual legislative and executive role.
  • The Commission must demand the transparency of moderation and recommendation algorithms. Since the platforms have to justify the operation of their algorithms, the Commission must obtain direct access to the algorithms in order to be able to identify and understand the causes and mechanisms of the systemic risks that the major platforms may pose.
  • The Commission will have to find ways to make the platforms respect the requirement of political, ideological and religious neutrality. Platforms cannot promote content that is biased in favour of the worldview of their leaders. The Digital Market Act (DMA) – the DSA’s counterpart – fortunately requires platforms to observe neutrality with regard to their own business interests. 
  • When faced with platforms that do not respect the DSA, the Commission will have to deploy the DSA’s most coercive measures quickly and resolutely, including fines of up to 6% of global turnover and even a ban on operating in the EU. For example, X (the former Twitter) has decided to opt out of the Code of Practice Against Disinformation, which violates the spirit of the DSA, at the very least.
  • The Commission must ensure strict compliance with the “codes of conduct.” The DSA provides that the major platforms shall adopt self-regulatory codes, such as the Code against Disinformation that was adopted in 2022 and is already in effect. The Commission must make sure that the codes of conduct are implemented properly and that the largest platforms participate effectively. If their participation is not sincere, the Commission will have to draw the appropriate conclusions and transform the commitments made in these codes into binding obligations.
  • In particular, the Commission should commit to promoting reliable news and information. Commitment 22 of the Code of Practice against Disinformation, under which platforms must provide their users with access to tools for assessing the reliability of information, has so far been signed by only one platform. If the other major platforms refuse to commit, the Commission will have to transform this commitment into an obligation. 
  • The DSA is currently the world’s most ambitious and best designed platform legislation. The European Union should make its expertise available to other countries that request it. The International Partnership for Information and Democracy, which serves as a privileged framework for global cooperation between governments, regulators and civil society, may be the appropriate vehicle for this purpose.  
  • The Commission will have to supplement the DSA with other initiatives, such as one that protects the European information space, in accordance with RSF’s recommendation. The DSA alone will not be able to address all the challenges of the information and communication space, or respond to the dangers that information chaos poses to democracies. 
Published on