The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) and the UK’s proposed Online Safety Bill are among the latest government policies designed to hold social media companies responsible for hate speech and “disinformation” posted by users.
Experts interviewed by The Defender expressed concerns about the potential slippery slope of regulations—in the U.S. and overseas—which, under the guise of “combating disinformation,” stifle the spread of information deemed inconvenient for governments and other powerful actors.
In the U.S., these proposals include a government “disinformation board” and a bill pending before Congress, the Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act. The EU’s new regulations, experts said, may have far-reaching impacts beyond Europe. In timing that coincided with Elon Musk’s intent to purchase Twitter, the EU announced April 23 the passage of the Digital Services Act (DSA).
The DSA seeks to tackle the spread of “misinformation and illegal content” and will apply “to all online intermediaries providing services in the EU,” in proportion to “the nature of the services concerned” and the number of users of each platform. According to the DSA, “very large online platforms” (VLOPs) and “very large online search engines” (VLOSEs)—those with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU—will be subject to the most stringent of the DSA’s requirements.
Big Tech companies will be obliged to perform annual risk assessments to ascertain the extent to which their platforms “contribute to the spread of divisive material that can affect issues like health,” and independent audits to determine the steps the companies are taking to prevent their platforms from being “abused.”