The European Union is starting to hold media companies accountable for hate speech that is posted on their platforms, including antisemitism.
The European Union Digital Services Act is set to take effect in two months. While the law was first brought up as a proposal back in December of 2020, many people have forgotten about it since it took so long to pass and now go into effect.
However, once it is fully in effect, media companies that don’t take action to remove the “hate speech” off their platforms could face significant fines. The Act doesn’t mention antisemitism specifically when talking about why it was proposed, but it does clearly define antisemitism as “hate speech.”
The law will apply to any company – internet based or not – that does business in the continent. It will require all of these companies to engage in particular measures that are transparent, and also submit a report detailing their risk assessment about what they will do to counter hate speech on their particular platform.
Any company that doesn’t sufficiently meet the Act’s standards may face legal action in Europe, and that could include stiff fines.
Every member state of the European Union is required to appoint Digital Services Coordinators. Their jobs will be to “develop national tools and guidance as regards complaint and redress mechanisms” for their particular country. Each member state must do this by February of next year at the latest.
By this September, any company operating in Europe has to submit a plan for how they will respond to any hate speech on their platforms, and that includes antisemitism.
The Act is making news recently because it was a central topic of a summit that was held in Jerusalem last week. The High-Level Seminar on combating racism, xenophobia and antisemitism was held for the 14th time on June 12, and it was attended by many representatives throughout the EU as well as the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
It was actually the first meeting at a ministerial level that was held since the EU first committed to upgrading that forum back in 2021.
As the European Commission’s vice president Margaritis Schinas said:
“The fight against antisemitism is a top priority for the European Union, and Israel is a key partner in this effort. The ultimate goal of our first-ever dedicated EU strategy is to ensure that Jews can go about their lives in line with their cultural and religious traditions, free from security concerns.”
He further added that the DSA will be a central part of the strategy, saying that it is “strong legislation” that will allow “an EU-wide network of trusted flaggers to counter antisemitic speech.”
It’ll also provide the “relevant authorities” the proper capacity to “prosecute hate speech online.”
Eli Cohen, the foreign minister of Israel, gave a speech at the seminar, during which he said:
“The fight against antisemitism should continue ceaselessly as the era of social media brings new challenges. It is with great concern that we follow the constant increasing level of antisemitism both on and offline.”