The recently adopted Digital Services Act (DSA) constitutes the new legal horizontal framework in the EU regarding the provision of online services. According to the European Commission, the DSA aims “to create a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected.” The DSA includes a complex and diverse set of rules for different players; significantly, it includes obligations for ‘very large online platforms’ (VLOPs) and ‘very large online search engines’ (VLOSEs) to assess and mitigate the so-called systemic risks their services are deemed to generate and/or contribute to. These risks include, among others, “the dissemination of illegal content” and “actual or negative effects for the exercise of fundamental rights [or] on civic discourse and electoral processes, and public security.”
The EU clearly needs to protect its territory from the harms deriving from disinformation campaigns and other negative consequences for democracy, human rights, and the free exchange of ideas and opinions, particularly in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and previous Kremlin orchestrated attempts to interfere with election processes.
The tension between shielding the EU from malicious interference and the effective protection of fundamental rights is apparent in recent legal and political and regulatory initiatives related to the information ecosystem.
As a geopolitical actor, the EU needs to show a strong commitment to democracy and the rule of law and thus defend such fundamental principles vis-à-vis threats and deliberate political interference coming from third countries.
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