Computer & Communication Industry Association
PublishedSeptember 7, 2023

Media Freedom Act: EU Parliament Risks Enabling Spread of Harmful Content With Media Exemption

Brussels, BELGIUM – Today, the European Parliament’s Culture Committee adopted its position on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), reviving a controversial measure exempting media outlets from content moderation on very large online platforms. This exemption would allow rogue actors posing as self-declared media to spread disinformation for 24 hours before platforms can take it down.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA Europe) takes note of today’s decision, but can only conclude that Parliament’s lead committee has decided to turn Article 17 on the special treatment of media content into a harmful media exemption. The Digital Services Act (DSA) already offers a solid framework to protect media freedom and pluralism online. Hence, the EMFA should not create a conflicting moderation regime.

The original idea of a simple, dedicated procedure for media content under the EMFA made sense and would have complemented the DSA. However, the proposal by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for a separate moderation regime – based on the (claimed) identity of the media content provider, and not the nature of the content concerned – would introduce dangerous loopholes for disinformation.

While MEPs have tried to improve the “self-declaration” process for media outlets and proposed some carve-outs to content restrictions in order to better protect children, these changes are not enough to address Article 17’s fundamental problems. Most notably, much-needed improvements to the definition of “media service providers” are still lacking.

Moreover, a must-carry obligation of media content was added that gives news outlets 24 hours to react to content moderation decisions, during which time very large online platforms cannot take any action. This rule would now apply to both content suspensions and restrictions, making it harder to present age-appropriate content or blur violent images.

In practice, this means that bad actors could simply pose as media outlets and spread fake news for 24 hours before very large online platforms are allowed to remove the content.

The European Parliament will vote on its EMFA position in plenary next month. Despite the short time remaining until this legislative mandate’s end, CCIA Europe calls on MEPs and the 27 Member States to carefully assess the impact of Article 17 on disinformation.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Europe’s Senior Policy Manager, Mathilde Adjutor:

“The proposed media exemption is a dangerous loophole that could be used to spread harmful content and undermine our democracy. CCIA Europe calls on EU policymakers to close this loophole and ensure that the European Media Freedom Act complements, rather than undermines, the Digital Services Act’s ongoing implementation.”

“If the European Union fails to act, rogue actors could use the full 24-hour window introduced by MEPs to spread misleading information – about elections for example – before online platforms are allowed to take it down.”