DSA ‘Media Exemption’: VP Jourová puts the idea “in the box of good intentions leading to hell”

In her closing remarks at the EU DisinfoLab’s annual conference #Disinfo2021, when asked about the proposal from publishers to include a clause exempting media from moderation by platforms in the Digital Services Act, the Vice President of the European Commission Věra Jourová replied that this idea “falls into the box of good intentions leading to hell.

Since then, four digital rights experts have urged MEPs to heed the warnings of Facebook whistleblowers and steer clear of a last minute loophole for media for that could compromise the effectiveness of the much-needed regulation:

MEPs must also be extremely cautious about the eleventh-hour proposal from the JURI Committee to include a media exemption clause in the DSA. Inclusion of such a clause would not only shield thousands of orchestrated disinformation and hate networks from the DSA’s measures —  it would also prevent platforms from taking voluntary remedial action themselves. In short: we’d end up worse off than before on the very issues Haugen and whistleblowers like Sophie Zhang, Yael Eisenstat and others before her risked so much to expose.”

Disinfo News and Updates

  • EP in Taipei. An EU delegation sent by the European Parliament’s special committee on foreign interference and disinformation (INGE) traveled to Taiwan yesterday for a high-level dialogue. Led by committee Chair Raphael Glucksmann, the delegation seeks to learn from Taiwan’s experience “addressing repeated and sophisticated attacks through the mobilization of its whole society, and without restricting its democracy.”
  • Safety of Journalists. In honor of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November, EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Vice-President Věra Jourová issued a statement and recalled the initiatives taken for journalists’ safety in the EU.
  • Climate Change Denial. Far-right news site Breitbart is one of 10 ‘fringe publishers’ responsible for nearly 70 percent of interactions with climate change denial content on Facebook, according to a study by Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). More on the company’s struggles with climate change misinformation surfaced in the Facebook Papers.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU institutions 

  • Digital Services Act. In its latest compromise text, dated October 29, the Slovenian Presidency takes up the French proposal to give the Commission the responsibility to control and sanction the systemic obligations of the largest online platforms.  The compromise is on the agenda of the internal market working group on November 8, for an expected adoption by the ministers on November 25. However, Euractiv reports that the final Internal Markets Committee vote due on November 8 has been delayed, officially due to Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen testifying before the committee on that day. 
  • Media Freedom Act. Vice-president Věra Jourová announced to MEPs on Tuesday of last week that the Commission will come forward with a Media Freedom Act, new rules to defend media pluralism and press freedom across the bloc. Planned for the third quarter of 2022, the rules aim to increase transparency and scrutiny of media ownership.
  • NIS 2 Directive. EU countries will have to meet stricter supervisory and enforcement measures and harmonise their sanctions regimes in the area of cybersecurity, according to the legislative text adopted last Thursday by the Industry Committee (ITRE).
  • Political Advertising. The Commission is expected to release their proposed regulation on online political advertising this month – on November 23rd, Politico reports – which would dramatically enhance the transparency reporting requirements of major tech platforms and partisan groups.

EU DisinfoLab’s Annual Conference #Disinfo2021

EU DisinfoLab’s annual conference took place last Tuesday and Wednesday, October 26 and 27, in Brussels at the Renaissance Brussels Hotel, gathering 200 members of the counter-disinformation community. Many thanks to all of our speakers and guests. We hope you had a wonderful time! For those who weren’t able to join us this year, we hope to see you in 2022! The event was not recorded, but we will update the conference webpage with slide in the coming weeks. In the meantime:

Gender-Based Disinformation: Advancing Our Understanding and Response

On June 10, the EU DisinfoLab co-hosted a Community Lab at RightsCon 2021 which focused on the intersection of disinformation and gender. The session wished to give oxygen and validation to the emerging discussion on this topic and build a common position among the researchers, activists, journalists, and interested members of civil society. We have now released a summary of the discussion elaborated with supporting research and contributions from the co-facilitators.

Journals, Dashboards, Indices…

  • The inaugural issue of the Journal on Trust & Online Safety features research on advertising in the metaverse, influence operations and transparency, and more.
  • The Institute for Strategic Dialogue and CASM Tech dashboards tracked corporate greenwashing and climate change disinformation during the COP26 Glasgow summit. 
  • The 2021 edition of the Disinformation Resilience Index provides quantitative assessment of states’ resilience to foreign-led disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe.

Events and Announcements

  • The European Media and Information Fund (EMIF), established by the European University Institute and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has an open call to boost fact-checking activities in Europe.
  • The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) launched a safety self-evaluation guide for watchdog journalism groups: the Journalism Security Assessment Tool.
  • The annual Web Summit has been taking place this week in Lisbon.