This is the November 2022 recap issue of the Centre for Democracy & Technology Europe‘s monthly Tech Policy Brief. It highlights some of the most pressing technology and internet policy issues under debate in Europe, the U.S., and internationally, and gives CDT’s perspective on them. Our aim is to help shape policies that advance our rights in a digital world. Please do not hesitate to contact our team in Brussels: Iverna McGowan, Asha Allen, and Ophélie Stockhem.
CDT Europe and Open Governance Network for Europe Host Roundtable on Implementation of the DSA
On 8 November, CDT Europe held the second event in our Civil Society Roundtable Series on the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), Fundamental Rights, and Civic Space at the UN House in Brussels. The event — co-organised with Open Governance Network for Europe, a joint initiative of the Open Government Partnership and Democratic Society — featured representatives from the European Commission, the office of the European Data Protection Suervisor, the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA), EU member states, OHCHR, and civil society. Mr. Petr Očko, Deputy Minister for Digitisation and Innovation at the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, opened the event.
At the roundtable, moderated by Asha Allen, CDT Advocacy Director for Europe, Free Expression and Civic Space, and Anthony Zacharzewski, President of Democratic Society, participants exchanged ideas about how stakeholders can meaningfully cooperate to ensure that the DSA is implemented in a manner that protects democracy and human rights.
Participants in the first panel discussion then reflected on the DSA’s implications for fundamental rights and civic space. During the second panel discussion, which focused on the challenges and opportunities of implementing the DSA, experts reflected on how to ensure civil society’s equitable and sustained involvement in shaping implementation and accountability efforts.
In her opening remarks, Director of CDT Europe office Iverna McGowan outlined that CDT Europe and and our very skilled civil society partners aim to encourage close collaboration with EU lawmakers and institutional stakeholders through this Roundtable series. As McGowan said, the Roundtables create a forum for the sectors to work together towards solutions on pressing human rights challenges in the digital world, and help foster a deeper understanding of the fundamental rights and governance issues among the EU and its member states.
CDT Europe Joins OECD Global Forum on Reinforcing Democracy
On 17 November, Iverna McGowan, Director of CDT’s Europe Office, joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Global Forum and Public Governance Ministerial Meeting on Building Trust and Reinforcing Democracy. The event featured discussions about key public governance challenges for democracy, including tackling mis- and disinformation, embracing the global responsibilities of government, and building resilience to foreign influence.
McGowan chaired a session where panellists discussed how to proactively protect civic space online, a topic outlined in the OECD’s Declaration on Rebuilding Trust and Reinforcing Democracy, which was adopted by Ministers in Luxembourg on 18 November.
McGowan emphasised several pressing challenges currently shaping civic space, including the need for procedural safeguards around processes for content removals, and transparency and accountability in online content moderation. She insisted that privacy and surveillance protections are crucial to the safety of human rights defenders and journalists, particularly in the face of events such as the Pegasus spyware scandal. McGowan also spoke to the need for women and persons from other underrepresented groups to be both freer to participate online and better represented in legislative bodies, to help governments and civil society to design better laws and policies that result in more equitable outcomes.
CDT Europe Advocacy Director Contributes to the “DSA Observatory” Symposium
On 1 November, a new article from CDT’s Asha Allen appeared in the DSA Symposium Series published by Verfassungsblog, a journalistic and academic forum of debate. Allen examined approaches to tackling online gender-based violence through due diligence obligations for online platforms, including large online platforms (VLOPs).
Allen recommended that the EU Commission deeply reflect upon how it will harmonise the Regulation, and its enforcement, with other legislative initiatives such as the draft Directive on Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. Allen concluded that, in order for the DSA’s provisions on risk assessments to be meaningful, these assessments and their subsequent evaluations will need to use an intersectional methodology. She argued that, unless they do so, the DSA will fail to address and mitigate the risks posed to those most acutely impacted by potential rights violations.
Allen welcomed the DSA, and particularly its obligations for large platforms to do their due diligence in monitoring content, as a concrete opportunity to mitigate systemic risks such as online gender-based violence. She stressed, however, that in order to achieve this goal, governments must continually engage across sectors and consult with stakeholders, first by establishing a formal mechanism where civil society can actively contribute to improving enforcement and implementation.
CDT Europe Receives Grants to Support DSA Work and Security and Surveillance Programme
Two independent nonprofit grant-making organisations have awarded grants to the Centre for Democracy and Technology Europe: the first is a €100,000 award from Open Society Foundations (OSF) towards CDT Europe’s Security, Surveillance, and Human Rights Program, and the second is a €30,000 grant by Civitates for CDT Europe’s work to ensure civil society participation and strong human rights safeguards in the implementation of the EU’s Digital Services Act.
Said Peter Hustinx, Chair of CDT Europe’s Board, “We are deeply grateful to OSF and Civitates for the recognition and support of our work. The OSF grant will bolster our crucial efforts on security, surveillance, and human rights. As the Pegasus scandal demonstrated, our right to communicate securely underpins the pillars of democracy, including press freedom, the presumption of innocence, privacy, and freedom of expression and association. These funds will strengthen our capacity to advocate to ensure that people are better protected against unlawful surveillance in Europe and beyond.The Civitates award for our work on the EU Digital Services Act will help galvanise CDT Europe’s efforts in bringing civil society actors together to ensure that all voices are heard as this landmark legislation is implemented. It also acknowledges the value that CDT’s deep subject matter expertise has brought to these debates.” With these grants, CDT Europe will also research the effectiveness of the EU’s Dual Use Regulation on controlling the export of spyware. This work will contribute to the European Parliament’s ongoing Pegasus Inquiry, and international debates on how best to protect international human rights through effective export controls on spyware. It will also help advance CDT Europe’s work on the EU’s Child Sexual Abuse Regulation, to ensure the final law provides adequate safeguards for the rights of children and all users and continue our work in organising inter-institutional convenings around the implementation of the EU’s Digital Services Act.
Don’t forget to check out CDT’s publications for this month, and to sign up for CDT Europe’s AI newsletter!