by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Neither the EU nor, in many cases, its member states (or even a certain former member state across the English Channel) are known for their fondness for online free speech. Germany, after all, is the home of a social-media law that, in its initial incarnation, helped inspire Russia’s, while the Brits contemplated legislation that would have obliged social-media companies to devise policies to handle comments that were legal, but “harmful.” France passed a law empowering a judge to order the removal of “fake news” during an election campaign. And the list goes on and on.
After the Charlie Hebdo killings, politicians from across Europe marched through Paris, each claiming #JeSuisCharlie, a gesture that would have been praiseworthy had they meant it. That was not the impression that they had given beforehand, and it is not the impression that they have given since. …
… Those running the EU have now imposed a new censorship mechanism (via its new Digital Services Act), on top of that already being imposed at the national level. Some of the rules are sensible, but others are capable of abuse, in part because of their chilling effect: The maximum fine for breach of the act could be as much as six percent of the previous year’s annual turnover, a sum designed to ensure that those subject to the law err on the side of caution, as is the provision that repeated serious breaches of the law could lead to a ban.
Just in case that’s not enough to do the trick, the Digital Services Act (DSA) also opens up the possibility of civil litigation by aggrieved parties, raising the prospect both of damages and endless lawfare.