European Federation of Journalists

EU Digital Service Act: European citizens need a stronger DSA

Picture credit: Olivier Matthys / AFP.

Update (24/06/21):

The EFJ calls on the Culture Committee of the European Parliament to amend article 12 or better, to add amendment 27a to its draft opinion on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Single Market For Digital Services (Digital Services Act, DSA). Online platforms should not have the right to edit or remove any editorial content (and not just audiovisual editorial content)!

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomes the proposed EU Digital Service Act as a long overdue and crucial tool to create a safer, fairer and more accountable online environment. The journalists’ community believes that the DSA must be stronger in order to guarantee a digital media ecosystem based on trust and audience engagement, in particular in the fight against disinformation. Today the platforms determine who sees when and what – based on their content recommendation systems, algorithms and terms and conditions. Today the power of the big platforms and gatekeepers has contributed to the market failure we face in journalism. How to ensure an enabling environment for independent professional journalism in the digital ecosystem will depend on ensuring a level playing field and fair digital competition enforcement.

  • The DSA must set high transparency standards on all online platforms regarding algorithmic decision-making processes and content recommendations.
  • The EFJ welcomes the fact that the DSA seeks to make ‘Big Tech’ accountable to public authorities through new transparency and due diligence obligations, including for the decisions they make to remove or restrict access to content (free speech protection).
  • The EFJ welcomes the obligation of transparency on online advertisement and the natural or legal person behind it.
  • The EFJ welcomes the obligation of transparency from online platforms about their use of automated content moderation, indicators of accuracy and any safeguards applied.

“As long as up to 80% of advertisement revenue goes to the big platform providers, the future of independent journalism is at great risk.”

  • The EFJ regrets the fact that the DSA does not sufficiently set limits on “Big Tech” business models based on the massive collection of personal data, profiling and targeted advertising.
  • The EFJ regrets that the DSA does not address the excessive power of “Big Tech” over information flows (in addition to content moderation rules, we need rules to open the markets to new platforms and to multiply the channels of public discourse and journalistic content).
  • Fair and non-discriminatory distribution of all digital press and publications on gatekeeper platforms must be ensured.
  • Online platforms monetise on content that is produced by journalists. However these journalists don’t get their share of the incomes. The DSA should put forward concrete proposals which strive for equitable share of revenues and promote fair redistribution systems.

“The new law must be an enabler, not a roadblock for media freedom.”

  • A stronger DSA should protect online journalistic content from interference by online platforms. Journalistic content regularly gets removed and journalists’ accounts blocked by online platforms without any prior warning. Platform operators should not be allowed to exercise any control over journalistic content available on the platforms. The DSA should ensure that journalists and/or the media they work for remain solely responsible for the content they produce. The EFJ calls on the EU institutions to exclude all editorial platforms from the scope of the obligations, set out in Chapter III as they would endanger editorial freedom. Audience engagement is becoming an essential tool for journalists and media to create trust and transparency. It cannot be that gatekeepers platforms would entrench their control over the formation of opinion online.
  • Online platforms shall not use tools to assess, control or label journalistic content. The DSA should preserve and protect the self-regulation and editorial control of the press (press & media councils).
  • The EFJ demands a clarification about the qualification of “trusted flaggers” (art. 19). Journalists’ unions and associations should be able to qualify as trusted flaggers. When it comes to IP rights, trusted flaggers status should be granted to collective management organisations, rights holders’ associations, press councils, journalists’ unions and associations.
  • Member States should make sure that the national independent regulatory authorities and bodies for the media are adequately involved in enforcement and oversight of the DSA.