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EMFA: The Looming Spectre of Disinformation and Hate Speech

EMFA: The Looming Spectre of Disinformation and Hate Speech

Cross-posted from C4C’s LinkedIn page – see the original article

EU’s Media Freedom Act: A Closer Look

In 2022, the European Commission introduced the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) with the goal of enhancing media diversity in the EU. It aimed to increase transparency around who owns media outlets and protect journalists from government surveillance and spyware. However, by the time an agreement was reached on 15 December 2023, there were serious doubts about the commitment to these goals. The agreed terms, particularly around content moderation in Article 17, could undermine public trust in media and affect the quality of information. Large online platforms are now required to notify media organizations before deleting or restricting their content, giving them only 24 hours to respond.

Forced Content Hosting: Potential Issues Ahead

Article 17 of the EMFA introduces a rule that prevents platforms from quickly removing media content, even if it violates community guidelines. This “must carry” rule limits platforms like X or Meta from taking down content that could spread misinformation or harm public discourse. This decision could make it harder to combat disinformation and protect vulnerable groups from targeted hate speech. As also pointed out by Christoph Schmon from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “It also poses important concerns about government interference in editorial decisions”.

Negotiations Between Platforms and Media

The EMFA’s approach could lead to negotiations between major media companies and platforms about which content stays up. Only media outlets that meet certain criteria will have this special status. Considering the other bargaining situations going on in parallel between platforms and media organizations (e.g. in the framework of the press publishers’ right under Article 15 of the EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive and in light of the provisions related to commercial text and data mining under Article 4 of the same Directive), this situation might favour larger media organisations, potentially at the cost of smaller voices.

What’s Next?

Despite the criticism, the EU has included measures to protect media independence from political influence. The agreement has been praised by some as a victory for media freedom, but C4C is concerned about how it will be implemented. The focus now shifts to finalising the legislative process and how the EMFA will be enforced. Thankfully, civil society observers such as EFF, European Digital Rights and the Civil Liberties Union for Europe are watching closely, ready to hold the EU accountable to ensure the act supports a diverse and free media landscape without compromising public safety or the integrity of online spaces. It is just a shame that we have ended up in this position, where yet again users’ concerns are pushed to the end of the queue.

Featured image created with DALL·E