16. October 2023

My Parliamentary Questions to the EU Commission on lobbying and microtargeting practices around the Regulation to combat child abuse material

On 11 May 2022, the European Commission adopted a proposal for rules to prevent and combat child abuse. The vote in the lead Committee of the EU Parliament (LIBE) on the compromises is scheduled to take place on 26 October, the vote in Council has been postponed following a blocking minority in September. Following recent several revelations by investigative journalists and technology experts, I have sent the two following questions to the EU Commission today (soon accessible here):

Possible violations of the Digital Services Act by X (formerly Twitter) in light of recent news reports on the draft Regulation on combatting child sexual abuse

On 13 October 2023, a news report published in De Volkskrant revealed that the EU Home Affairs account on X.com (formerly Twitter) sponsored a political advertising campaign in relation to the currently ongoing legislative process on the draft Regulation laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. Following this publication, the visibility of the account of the journalist Danny Mekic, who wrote the De Volkskrant article, was restricted on X. Indeed, third party tools confirm a search suggestion ban as well as a search ban. However, no statement of reason (Article 17 DSA) was sent to Danny Mekic by X which makes any complaint in line with Article 20 impossible. In addition, two other individuals who posted on X about the news story – journalist/researcher Marieke Kuypers, and technology expert Bert Hubert – also seem to be affected by restrictions in visibility without having received any statement of reason.

Can the Commission:

  1. advise if it is investigating in this matter, as a possible violation of the DSA?
  2. advise if any Commission DG or Unit or organisation that collaborates with the Commission, such as Thorn, has requested these restrictions in visibility?

Priority Question: Microtargeted advertising campaigns by the EU Commission on X/Twitter

On 15/09, DG Migration and Home Affairs launched an advertising campaign on X (formerly Twitter) in certain Member States, using sensitive data (political and religious views) to micro-target specific audiences – although the legislative process on the draft Regulation to combat child sexual abuse is still ongoing. Commissioner Johansson replied that targeting messages to millions of voters and policy-makers ahead of the Council vote is “standard normal practice”.

Can the Commission:

  1. advise if DG Migration and Home Affairs is aware of the ban to use sensitive data under the DSA?
  2. advise if there has been communications with Commissioner Breton who is currently actively engaging with X and other platforms?
  3. advise if it shares the view that using illegal microtargeting undermines EU legislation like the DSA?
  4. list all microtargeted campaigns on social media during this mandate launched by the Commission to influence Parliament’s or Council decisions?
  5. advise if this kind of activity is in violation of the principle of sincere cooperation (enshrined in Articles 4(3) and 13(2) TEU)?
  6. indicate how this is compatible with its role as honest broker in Trilogues in general, and concerning the Trilogue negotiations on political advertising in particular?

Links to the relevant X Transparency reports

  • Belgium: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1711840471926919539.csv
  • Czech Republic: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1711837907810504751.csv
  • Finland: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1711837769683619880.csv
  • Netherlands: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1711840731994665240.csv
  • Portugal: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1711840606450848098.csv
  • Sweden: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1712470444392264139.csv
  • Slovenia: https://ton.twitter.com/ads-repository/ads-repository/1712471208632188998.csv

Stay up to date