The European Commission has been granting NGOs the power to patrol the web under the Digital Services Act (DSA), the body has said in a written statement. (EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON)


NGOs can ‘police the internet’ with EC blessing


The European Commission has given NGOs the power to patrol the web under the Digital Services Act (DSA).

The news was revealed  in a written statement after Tom Vandenkendelaere of the European People’s Party (EPP) asked about the appointment under the act of so-called “trusted flaggers” – third-party organisations that are to be granted special privileges in terms of enforcing the DSA.

Under the legislation, European Union Member States have the power to grant the web-patrol status to organisations of their choosing from the middle of February.

In a statement published on January 9, the EC claimed it had seemingly circumvented that date and had already been treating a number of organisations as trusted flaggers – without the explicit approval of any EU country.

The EC’s so-called digital enforcer Thierry Breton said: “From February 17, 2024, the national Digital Services Co-ordinators designated in each Member State will be responsible for awarding the ‘trusted flagger’ status to applicants. However, trusted flaggers under other initiatives are submitting notifications for specific content.”

He added that organisations involved in the EC’s Code of Conduct online project on countering illegal “hate speech” had already been active in reporting hate speech under DSA rules.

The EU’s apparent granting of special privileges to certain organisations under the DSA is likely to raise eyebrows.

There is no mention of any mechanism for the direct appointment of trusted flaggers under the DSA regulation, with Article 22 of the document saying it is instead the job of the Member States to grant the title to “applicable bodies”.

To what organisations these additional powers the EC has seemingly granted are also likely to cause concern.

Included in the list provided by Breton is the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR), a George Soros-linked group, and the German-based NGO HateAid.

Both organisations have launched controversial, privately operated hate-speech reporting software, with HateAid apparently encouraging the German public to use its ReportHeroes phone app to inform on fellow citizens should they feel they have committed “digital violence”.

INAR has close ties to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), which has been publicly accused by RENEW MEP Frédérique Ries of being linked with the Muslim Brotherhood transnational Sunni Islamist organisation founded in Egypt.