4. October 2021

Joint statement Alexandra Geese/Christel Schaldemose on the relevance of the Facebook leaks to the DSA legislative process

Since a few weeks, Facebook is faced with a series of accusations about its internal workings, based on hundreds of pages of leaked documents from inside the company, analysed by the Wall Street Journal. To date the Facebook Files are one of the greatest leaks highlighting the internal machinations of Facebook and its detailed knowledge of its flaws that cause harm. Two MEPs in charge of negotiating new rules for online platforms, lead rapporteur for the Digital Services Act Christel Schaldemose (S&D) and Alexandra Geese (shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA) were both in touch with Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower behind the Wall Street Journal’s reports and, given the high relevance of the leaked documents for the DSA, request further investigations into the revelations:

 

Christel Schaldemose: “The Facebook Files – and the revelations that the whistleblower has presented to us – underscores just how important it is that we do not let the large tech companies regulate themselves. They are simply not capable of lifting that responsibility. The governing of our shared spaces on social media must be done through democratically controlled institutions just as we have done in the parts of our society that do not lie in the digital realm. We must demand transparency from the tech companies and we must allow civil society, law makers and scholarly experts to have insight into the building blocks of the algorithms. This is the only way that we can have a public debate about the effects of these algorithms.

Today, we know this from the files, there are arbitrary protections of celebrities and a huge focus on negative, wrong and conflict-ridden content that threaten to undermine the very democratic conversation that we once hoped, the social media platforms could strengthen. To keep that hope alive and to allow all voices the ability to join in on the conversation, we must put firm demands to the companies governing these spaces.”

 

Alexandra Geese:I am extremely grateful for the courage of the whistleblower that finally gives us insights we need to effectively legislate. The revelations couldn’t be more timely for the work on the DSA. The huge volume of documents and the person’s deep expertise are impressive. Until now, neither the public nor legislators have been able to gain such a deep insight into the mechanisms that have become far too powerful. The documents finally put all the facts on the table to allow us to adopt a stronger Digital Services Act. The conversation confirms my view that we need strong rules for content moderation and far-reaching transparency obligations in Europe. In a democracy we cannot tolerate an internet where some people have the right to promote violence and hatred in spite of the rules and others see perfectly legal content taken down by automated filters. We need to regulate the whole system and the business model that favours disinformation and violence over factual content – and enables its rapid dissemination. We also need consistent enforcement in Europe. It is naïve to appeal to corporate self-regulation and responsibility. We as elected politicians have the responsibility for democratic discourse and must exercise it in the legislative process.”

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