Brussels, BELGIUM – Today, the Council of the European Union adopted the position of the 27 Member States on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). Ever since the European Commission proposed the EMFA, there has been much discussion about Article 17, which would oblige online platforms to give special treatment to media content.
Some EU lawmakers have gone as far as suggesting to turn the contested article into a “media exemption” that would include a must-carry obligation for any media content. Many stakeholders fear this would actually undermine the fight against disinformation.
Hence, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA Europe) particularly appreciates the hard work of Member States on Article 17 of the EMFA in recent months. Drawing lessons from earlier discussions on the Digital Services Act (DSA), the position agreed by the Council today tries to avoid reintroducing a media exemption. Member States have also aligned Article 17 with the DSA and scrapped the harmful must-carry obligation.
Loopholes remain, however. Given that the media exemption is based on unreliable self-declarations, rogue actors could still abuse the system, as anyone can declare themselves to be a media outlet and spread disinformation. That is why the EU institutions should continue to further improve Article 17 to strengthen accountability and oversight.
EU lawmakers should also reconsider the idea of making content restrictions part of the special treatment. Because this would only prevent online platforms from putting trigger warnings on harmful content, which protect young users from disturbing images and news.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are still edging closer to a full-fledged media exemption and their position might even include the controversial must-carry obligation. Nevertheless, CCIA Europe hopes that the Council and MEPs will jointly assess Article 17 with a view to removing major loopholes that could facilitate the spread of misinformation.
The following can be attributed to CCIA Europe’s Senior Policy Manager, Mathilde Adjutor:
“We appreciate lawmakers’ progress but urge Member States and MEPs to take a closer look at how Article 17 could be abused. Europe cannot afford that the special treatment of media content ends up being a tool that helps those spreading disinformation online.”
“Member States sent a clear signal today, they don’t want to revive the dreaded media exemption. Hopefully the Parliament will follow suit. However, this should also be reflected in the actual text by deleting any references to content restrictions.”
“It is vital that the Media Freedom Act does not impede the proper implementation of the EU’s flagship Digital Services Act, which already provides a framework protecting media freedom and pluralism online.”