European lawmakers are on the verge of implementing the EU Media Freedom Act, a controversial law that poses serious risks for users, particularly marginalized groups who often bear the brunt of hate speech. The consequences of this law could extend far beyond Europe, potentially impacting company policies in the United States and around the world, leaving vulnerable people at a greater disadvantage.
The EU Media Freedom Act poses significant risks to user rights and global media freedom. The law’s content moderation framework deviates from the principle of platform neutrality, granting privileges to certain media outlets and impeding platforms’ ability to combat false information. The law’s implementation also undermines media pluralism and exacerbates the spread of disinformation. To preserve trust and uphold free speech, the Media Freedom Act must be revised or rejected by EU parliamentarians and member states.
A Flawed Approach to Content Moderation
The proposed Article 17 of the EU Media Freedom Act deviates from the vital principle that online platforms should not be compelled to host any content. This new law would grant special privileges to certain media outlets, placing the responsibility on “very large online platforms” like Twitter and Facebook to establish registration portals. These portals would enable media actors to self-declare as independent and regulated providers. Consequently, platforms would be tasked with determining the status of a wide range of media actors, undermining the neutrality of content moderation.
Furthermore, the law presents a problematic “must-carry” obligation, compelling platforms to host media content for up to 24 hours without the ability to label or blur objectionable posts. This means that content published by self-declared media outlets, regardless of its nature, cannot be swiftly flagged or removed by platforms, impeding their ability to enforce community standards and combat false information.
A Reckless Disregard for Media Pluralism
By granting content moderation privileges and allowing anyone to declare themselves as media outlets, the Media Freedom Act’s framework can be exploited by malicious actors to manipulate public discourse. This reckless approach undermines free speech equality and democratic debate by enabling the spread of hate speech, electoral propaganda, scams, and damaging disinformation.
The law also stifles platforms’ ability to warn users about potentially harmful content. State propaganda and government-led disinformation, even if demonstrably false, would persist online due to the privileged treatment provided by the media exemption. This not only compromises the integrity of information but also amplifies the risk of disinformation spreading, particularly in countries where the media is at high risk of state interference.
Conflict with the Digital Services Act
The Media Freedom Act adds an extra layer of complexity to the already-established Digital Services Act (DSA), the EU’s comprehensive rulebook for platform governance. The DSA focuses on avoiding discrimination and inconsistency in content moderation, while the Media Freedom Act incentivizes platforms to engage in arduous communication with media service providers. This discrepancy not only burdens platforms with additional procedures but also creates a dilemma in prioritizing certain news providers over others, potentially favoring influential media outlets driven by financial interests.
Preserving Trust and Upholding Free Speech
If adopted without significant revisions, the EU Media Freedom Act could severely impact users’ trust in the media’s ability to deliver reliable information and hold political leaders accountable. To protect user rights and ensure the preservation of media freedom, it is crucial for EU parliamentarians and member states to reject or amend Article 17 of the EU Media Freedom Act.