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C4C-Liberties Joint Op-Ed ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes’

On 19 April, Eva Simon, senior advocacy officer at the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), and Caroline De Cock, C4C Coordinator, co-wrote an op-ed published on EURACTIV on the problems surrounding filtering ahead of the crucial and determining 5th trilogue on the Digital Services Act (DSA) on 22 April 2022. The op-ed has also been translated in German by EURACTIV. Highlighted quotes below.

Liberties (@LibertiesEU) is a European network of independent non-governmental organisations which aims to safeguard the human rights of everyone in the European Union. 

The Coalition for Creativity (@_C4C_) brings together libraries, scientific and research institutions, digital rights groups, technology businesses, and educational and cultural heritage institutions that share a common view on copyright. 


Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes

The Digital Services Act (DSA) must protect our rights by including meaningful safeguards to uphold the fundamental rights of internet users, especially for those engaged in the indispensable work of documenting war crimes. 

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

In the case of the Syrian Archive, inaccurate automated tools removed the videos because these lacked understanding of linguistic or cultural nuances, and could not differentiate between journalistic resources and war propaganda. That contextual blindness still exists in today’s automated content moderation tools, and they still lead to situations where completely legitimate content is wrongfully made inaccessible.

We must learn from these mistakes, and ensure that journalists, activists, or anyone else can share their opinions or (video) evidence without the threat of it disappearing, simply because online platforms are coerced into implementing poorly working automation tools.

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA requires Big Tech companies to introduce risk analysis to predict and mitigate the negative effects on the exercise of fundamental rights, such as privacy, free speech, the prohibition of discrimination or the rights of minors. This should not be interpreted as requiring the mandatory use of automation.

Similarly, under no circumstances should co-regulatory measures such as the Code of Practice on disinformation impose pressure on online platforms to remove content so swiftly that it would necessitate the intensified deployment of automated tools.  

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA must protect our rights by including meaningful safeguards to uphold the fundamental rights of internet users. It must also maintain the prohibition of general monitoring obligations, let that be automated or non-automated. Also, it should certainly not impose, either directly or implicitly, the use of mandatory upload filters or other content moderation automation.​​

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA must preserve users’ privacy online and the continued prohibition against general monitoring by online platforms is an essential element thereof. In parallel, the ability to use the internet anonymously and through encrypted services offers crucial safeguards against monitoring. Such safeguards are in the text proposed by the European Parliament but now need to be embraced by the Council too. 

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA is going through the final stages of the trilogue negotiations. As the European Parliament rightfully recognizes in its mandate, it is crucial to prohibit the mandatory use of upload filters. Such prohibition is the only way to avoid disproportionate limitations on access to information, freedom of expression and personal data protection.

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)
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