Civics: E.U. Censorship Laws Mostly Suppress Legal Speech

JD Tuccille:

In a new report, Preventing “Torrents of Hate” or Stifling Free Expression Online?, The Future of Free Speech, a think tank based at Vanderbilt University, points out that online regulation changed in 2017 with Germany’s adoption of the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), “which aimed to combat illegal online content such as defamation, incitement, and religious insults.” That law inspired lawmakers around the world, as well as similar E.U.-wide legislation in 2022 in the Digital Services Act (DSA). “The underlying assumptions surrounding the passage of the DSA included fears that the Internet and social media platforms would become overrun with hate and illegal content,” notes the report.

But “hate” and other forms of unacceptable content are often in the eyes of the beholder. And the power to punish platforms for allowing forbidden speech encourages suppressing content.

The DSA “gives way too much power to government agencies to flag and remove potentially illegal content and to uncover data about anonymous speakers,” cautioned the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2022.