Facebook whistleblower calls on MEPs to make sure DSA won’t be ‘dead letter’

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. [STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA]

While revisiting the recently-agreed digital regulations, European Parliament lawmakers were joined by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen who called on them to do everything necessary to ensure that the DSA will be a “success story”.

MEPs from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee (IMCO) gathered on Wednesday  (18 May) to look back at the negotiations that led to the inter-institutional agreement about the EU’s two flagship laws aiming at regulating the digital “wild west”: the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA).

“From my point of view, the DMA and DSA are perhaps the two most important texts in the history of digital regulation”, said the now former French Secretary of State for Digital, Cédric O, also attending the meeting. He was at the front line of negotiations as France is holding the rotating presidency of the EU Council.

“It is an extremely strong message that Europe is sending to the world to be able to achieve two such important texts in such a short time”, he added, warning, however, that it could take some years before we can actually assess the impact of the “ground shaking” regulations.

These two proposals were put forward by the European Commission in December 2020 but are not expected to fully applied before 2024.

Frances Haugen, who disclosed tens of thousands of Facebook’s internal documents in 2021, also joined lawmakers in Brussels to pass them her “heartfelt congratulations” over the DSA – six months after first being heard by MEPs.

Facebook whistleblower asks European Parliament to get tough with DSA

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen called on EU lawmakers to “set a gold standard” and take a tough stance in regulating big tech and safeguarding democracy during her testimony before the Parliament on Monday (8 November).

The DSA is a horizontal legislation building on the 2001 eCommerce Directive, aiming to provide clear rules for content moderation, platform accountability, illegal products and systemic risks. “What is illegal offline is illegal online”, summarised those involved.

“The DSA will be the first instrument that creates a holistic set of obligations for tech companies, which will force them to properly assess and mitigate the harms their products can cause, since tech moves incredibly fast and will only continue to move faster”, Haugen declared, adding that the “era of ‘just trust us’ is over”.

The Facebook whistleblower was pleased that platforms will now have incentives to foreground their users “when they’re facing a choice between profit-maximising strategies or the public interest”.

Haugen had a warning, however, for IMCO lawmakers. “Put your money where your mouth is”, she said, calling for “significant resources to make the DSA a success story” and not a “dead letter”.

The European Commission will be itself in charge of the enforcement on the very large online platform, also known as VLOPs, while national authorities will supervise smaller ones.

Anticipating the upcoming operating costs, the digital chief Margrethe Vestager had pitched a supervisory fee to give the European executive enough resources to do the monitoring at the  third political trialogue held mid-March.

The final agreement stated that Brussels will be able to charge the platforms a fee proportional to the size of the service and not exceeding 0.05% of its worldwide annual net income.

Finally, Haugen expressed her satisfaction at the outcome of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) that was held in Paris earlier this week. It “is encouraging, as it promises more alignment on these topics in particular by advancing data access for researchers in the United States”, she said.

Russia's war in Ukraine dominates EU-US trade and tech talks

Russia’s war in Ukraine has been at the centre of the ongoing Trade and Technology Council (TTC) in Paris, on which the EU and the US gave a second update on Monday (16 May). EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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