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EU set to fine social media platforms that fail to remove anti-Semitic content

Digital Services Act will take effect on August 25, some free speech advocates are concerned

(Photo: Shutterstock)

According to the European Union Digital Services Act, large media companies that fail to remove “hate speech” from their platforms could face stiff fines.

While the DSA does not specifically mention anti-Semitism, the EU does define anti-Semitic statements as “hate speech.”

The act was first proposed in December 2020 and will is due to become effective starting this August 25.

The law applies to internet companies and companies doing business in Europe, requiring them to engage in certain transparency measures and submit a risk assessment report regarding how will counter the offending content on their platforms.

Companies that fail to meet the standards could face legal action including fines.

The law requires EU member states to appoint Digital Services Coordinators to “develop national tools and guidance as regards complaint and redress mechanisms” in their respective countries.

The member states are required to do so by February 2024.

European companies reportedly must present a plan for responding to incidents of hate speech, including anti-Semitism, by September of this year. The EU has largely adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

The DSA was a significant part of the discussions that took place in Jerusalem earlier this week.

On June 12, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and EU representatives held the 14th High-Level Seminar on combating racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. This week’s gathering was the first ministerial-level meeting since the EU committed to upgrading the forum in 2021.

“The fight against anti-Semitism is a top priority for the European Union and Israel is a key partner in this effort. The ultimate goal of our first-ever dedicated EU strategy is to ensure that Jews can go about their lives in line with their cultural and religious traditions, free from security concerns,” said Margaritis Schinas, VP for European Commissions, "Promoting Our European Way of Life."

Schinas said the DSA is part of that strategy and commended the proposal as “strong legislation" that will allow "an EU-wide network of trusted flaggers to counter antisemitic speech," and give "relevant authorities" the capacity to "prosecute hate speech online.”

During his speech at the seminar, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, “The fight against antisemitism should continue ceaselessly as the era of social media brings new challenges. It is with great concern that we follow the constant increasing level of antisemitism both on and off-line.”

However, some free speech advocates have voiced their concerns about the level of control the DSA will potentially give to governments, particularly government bodies that are outside of popular control.

David Thunder, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Navarra’s Institute for Culture and Society in Pamplona, Spain, said: “The Digital Services Act creates a European legal environment that is increasingly hostile to free speech.”

Twitter owner Elon Musk has also expressed reservations about the DSA’s restrictions on free speech, At the end of May, he removed Twitter from the EU’s voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation.

Twitter has not yet clarified its stance on the code, or how it intends to respond to the DSA requirements.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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