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The Brussels’ Corner
The extremely likely proposal of a new Digital Services Act (DSA) in the second half of 2020 has already kicked off interest with the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) outlining it as a policy priority. IMCO stated the need for ‘preserving and enforcing the single market freedoms, transparency and accountability, content moderation, better articulation of responsibilities and duty of care of intermediaries, as well as the notice and take-down mechanisms’. It is expected that the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) will also vie for influence.
S&D MEP Petra Kammerevert said that the leaked Commission’s plans (see pp.24-25) to regulate the online ecosystem through the DSA, may obscure how the EU deals with rights such as ‘freedom of expression and diversity of opinions’, to which DG CONNECT’s Director-General Roberto Viola replied that this is ‘a delicate issue’, while guaranteeing that a phased approach to the DSA will be followed.
According to Politico, Czech nominee Věra Jourová will likely get the Rule of Law portfolio, which encompasses related issues such as disinformation and hate speech. Rumour has it the Danish nominee and former Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager will receive the Digital portfolio. These European Commission appointments are expected to be confirmed tomorrow.
Rupturing the Monopoly?
U.S. federal states have announced plans to launch a Facebook and Google antitrust investigation that will scrutinise the tech companies’ dominance in the industry and the anti-competitive conduct stemming from that dominance. In particular, the investigation will ‘determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising’. Interestingly, this comes at the moment of Facebook releasing a white paper on data portability, which details their aim to take the lead in giving consumers more autonomy and choice in deciding whether to take their data to another platform, as well as outlining the challenges relating to this. In July, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission released the results of a similar inquiry.
In the news…
- In cooperation with others, Facebook has launched the Deepfake Detection Challenge, which includes a created data set to be used for the development of deepfakes mitigation technology. In similar news, Zao – a deepfake app – has sparked controversy in China over privacy fears relating to the fact that the developers have the ‘right to permanently use any image created on the app for free’.
- In light of the U.S. Defence Department’s efforts to fight disinformation, Poynter has explored how these efforts may play out, foreshadowing the possible limitations that the project may face.
- According to Buzzfeed News, Google is promoting climate change misinformation on its apps and mobile homepage.
- A closer look into how citizens cope with an internet shutdown by often crossing borders for internet access. In relation to this, the recent internet shutdown in Kashmir has fueled the prevalence of much misinformation.
- A new study has been published by RAND titled ‘Hostile Social Manipulation: Present Realities and Emerging Trends’. The report assesses the available evidence of Russian and Chinese social manipulation efforts, the doctrines and strategies behind such efforts, and evidence of their potential effectiveness.
- NYU Stern has written a report on how the social media industry should prepare for disinformation in the 2020 U.S. Election. According to the report, Instagram is the key battleground to watch for disinformation.
Events and Announcements
- A SIDN fonds call for project proposals on ‘strengthening the information position of individuals in a democracy’.
- Last week, the Hamilton 2.0 dashboard was launched, which tracks Russian government-backed information operations online.
- 19th September, 16:00 CEST @ EU DisinfoLab Webinar: Fakey – A social media and news literacy game. Pre-register here.
- 11th October @ Flemish Parliament, Brussels: The Battle for the Truth – Democracy & Disinformation in the Digital Media World.
- 16-17th January @ KU Leuven Conference: Post-truth – Perspectives, Strategies, Prospects.
- European Digital Rights (EDRi) is hiring a Policy Advisor.