By: Emmi Kivi
July 7 2023
The DSA aims to protect the freedom of expression in the EU by imposing accountability on digital businesses to address illegal and harmful content.
On his Instagram channel, comedian and known conspiracy theorist Russell Brand claims that the EU is introducing new censorship laws that "threaten to bring down free speech altogether." The claim was also shared on Twitter.
In the video, Brand refers to the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which came into force on November 16, 2022. The DSA is a set of regulations to address illegal and harmful online content in the EU’s internal market.
Brand’s claim corresponds to the DSA becoming enforceable for major online platforms in August 2023. This applies to large platforms with over 45 million monthly active users in the EU, including social media platforms and search engines. The regulations will also affect other digital services providers such as cloud services, app stores, and online marketplaces from February 2024.
The DSA is a harmonizing effort to modernize rules for online content and create a secure online environment. Johannes Bahrke, The European Commission’s Coordinating Spokesperson for Digital Economy, Research, and Innovation, told Logically Facts that “One of the core objectives of the DSA is to better protect fundamental rights online, not least freedom of expression and information, including media freedom and pluralism. The horizontal rules against illegal content are carefully calibrated and accompanied by robust safeguards for freedom of expression and an effective right of redress.”
European and national laws regulate what content is allowed and what is not, not the DSA. However, the regulations require large platforms and search engines to evaluate and address risks posed by their design choices, algorithms, and services to fundamental rights. These rights include freedom of expression, media pluralism, and data protection. Alice Stollmeyer, Executive Director of Defend Democracy, explained to Logically Facts, “The DSA helps protect freedom of expression. The DSA creates a more level playing field by requiring more transparency and accountability for the ‘recommender systems’ of digital platforms. It also includes safeguards to ensure non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory processes for the removal of illegal content. The Digital Services Act is basically a consumer protection law.”
The DSA introduces new rights for platform users and reinforces fundamental rights in content moderation decisions by imposing various platform transparency and accountability requirements. These include the right to issue complaints, and the establishment of a dispute settlement mechanism for appealing content moderation decisions. Bahrke clarified to Logically Facts that “users have the right of complaint and redress against content moderation decision. When they [platforms] restrict users and content based on their terms and conditions, they do so in a diligent, and proportionate manner, with due regard to fundamental rights. They cannot be arbitrary or discriminatory in their decision.”
Russell Brand is well-known for peddling conspiracy theories, having previously suggested there were biolabs in Ukraine, railed against the WEF and CBDCs, and platformed other conspiracists, such as Robert Kennedy Jr., on his shows – all previously covered and refuted by Logically Facts. His labeling of the DSA as a "censorship law" is erroneous and unsupported by the details of the act itself.
The Digital Services Act is a set of regulations that impose accountability on digital platforms and businesses to address illegal and harmful content online. By enforcing new transparency obligations and redress channels, the DSA aims to safeguard freedom of expression, not limit the fundamental rights of platform users. Therefore, we have marked the claim as false.