September 16, 2022

The EU DisinfoLab welcomes the European Commission’s European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) proposal. Given the media’s role in producing and disseminating disinformation in the EU, we support the efforts to have more free, pluralistic, and quality media. The EMFA, in this regard, can be an important complement to other legislative pieces, such as the Digital Services Act (DSA), to strengthen European democracy and fight disinformation, if done right.

However, we are concerned about a dangerous proposal included in the draft regulation that could easily create loopholes in the fight against disinformation. Given the Commission’s firm stand against the so-called media exemption in the DSA, we are disappointed to see the EMFA, under the call for “amicable solutions”, introducing an article (Article 17 EMFA) that could undo much of the progress done in fighting disinformation.

The Commission is asking Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) to send an early notice to media and self-declared media before it suspends its content. It will de facto create a privileged status, even for self-declared media, which is used to spreading disinformation and propaganda. It is hard to see this practically working and will likely encourage VLOPs not to moderate the media content given the costs and effort needed. This idea is also not new. A version of it was extensively discussed and rejected in the European Parliament earlier this year.

Finally, this proposal paves the way for further intense lobbying toward the total media exemption throughout the legislative process. Therefore, it is surprising and worrying to see that such dangerous proposals keep coming back despite being rejected numerous times.

We call upon the co-legislators, the Council of the EU, and the European Parliament to reject this dangerous proposal in the EMFA and be wary of any attempts to bring back the full media exemption in the coming months. As the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov stated in their 10 points plan to address our information crisis, supported by more than 100 civil society organisations, we have to protect media freedom by cutting off disinformation upstream.

We need to ensure that there is NO media exemption in any new technology or media legislation. The DSA already provides necessary avenues and assurances for proper media treatment. It just needs to be enforced. “We still don’t understand why we spend so much time discussing the same measures that were rejected in the Plenary and ruled out by the Member States while there are more meaningful and urgent things that could be done to protect the media and the public from disinformation,” says Alexandre Alaphilippe, EU DisinfoLab Executive Director.