DSA: Precise interpretation matters especially in crises

By Maria Mingo

Today, Mnemonic joined ARTICLE 19, AccessNow, and 27 other civil society organisations in responding to four recent letters by the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, to MetaXTikTok, and YouTube in relation to the spread of disinformation and illegal content on their respective platforms and in the context of armed conflicts, killings, and other forms of violence in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. Referencing the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), Breton made several demands of these companies, giving them 24-hours to respond to notifications of alleged illegal content.

Breton’s response highlights the importance and relevance of the DSA beyond the European Union, a crucial step for protecting digital rights around the world, especially in conflict zones. However, worryingly, the content of the letters in this case seems to contradict the DSA itself.

Importantly, the demands conflate the DSA’s treatment of illegal content and disinformation. While illegal content is addressed through quick removal, for disinformation the DSA instead imposes due diligence obligations on platforms to tackle systemic risks stemming from such content. This is an important distinction to protect fundamental rights online.

“Freedom of expression and the free flow of information must be vigorously defended during armed conflicts. Disproportionate restrictions of fundamental rights may distort information that is vital for the needs of civilians caught up in the hostilities and for recording documentation of ongoing human rights abuses and atrocities that could form the basis for evidence in future judicial proceedings. Experience shows that shortsighted solutions that hint at the criminal nature of “false information” or “fake news” — without further qualification — will disproportionately affect historically oppressed groups and human rights defenders fighting against aggressors perpetrating gross human rights abuses.” 

“We would like to reiterate our support for a robust enforcement of the DSA. But that enforcement must always follow due process as prescribed by law.”

Read the full statement here: https://www.article19.org/resources/europe-tackling-content-gaza-israel-must-respect-rule-of-law/


Mnemonic is an NGO dedicated to archiving, investigating and memorialising digital information documenting human rights violations and international crimes. Mnemonic also provides trainings, conducts research, engages in content moderation advocacy, and develops tools to support advocacy, justice and accountability.