Joe Biden's United States has been accused of issueing a statement "supporting" the European Union's Digital Services Act (DSA), despite repeated concerns from civil society organisations that the regulation could hamper freedom of speech online. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


Biden administration issues statement ‘supporting’ EU Digital Services Act


US President Joe Biden’s administration has been accused of issuing a statement “supporting” the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), despite repeated warnings from civil society organisations that the regulation could hamper freedom of speech online.

Speaking to Brussels Signal, one such group, Free Speech Ireland, expressed concern regarding a joint statement published by the European Commission and the Biden administration in the wake of the April meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC).

The meeting was spearheaded on the US side by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, while the EU was represented by European Commission officials Margrethe Vestager, Valdis Dombrovskis and Thierry Breton.

In the document, jointly penned by both sets of lawmakers detailing the conclusions of the two-day meeting, explicit reference is made to the DSA. The regulation is described as forcing Big Tech firms to “mitigate societal risks emanating from their services, including negative effects on civic discourse and electoral processes”.

A companion document also jointly penned by both parties details how researchers in the US can use the DSA to extract data from designated American companies.

“This status report summarises a subset of mechanisms that are available to European and/or United States researchers today, following, in part VLOPs and VLOSEs measures to comply with the DSA,” it read, with VLOPs and VLOSEs being terms to describe certain multinational tech firms such as X, Meta and Google as highlighted by the DSA.

“The report aims at showcasing the existing access modalities and encouraging the use of these mechanisms to study the impact of online platform’s design and decisions on society.”

In a statement given to Brussels Signal, Free Speech Ireland expressed concern that these new documents appear to show the US Government is now supporting the DSA despite it including several elements explicitly designed to control public discourse online.

“It appears the Biden administration is tacitly supporting the Digital Services Act, despite repeated concerns that these rules could seriously impact freedom of speech in Europe and even the United States,” the organisation said.

The group also said it was “concerned” by the joint statement’s suggestion that “civic society groups and potentially state-funded groups would have a role in determining what the ‘negative effects on civic society discourse’ are”.

“Any regulation, even if proposed as a supporting transparency in democratic elections, fundamentally must not encroach on the free expression of candidates and parties in particular,” the group concluded.

The joint statement comes despite the Biden administration having already come under pressure over the EU’s attempts to regulate American technology companies.

Much of the controversy has surrounded the DSA’s sister legislation, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers writing to the US President in December to demand an inquiry into whether the EU’s new rules could harm US interests.

“Securing our leadership in this sector is imperative for our economy and American workers,” read the letter, signed by 21 members of the House of Representatives.

It added that the DMA’s apparent targeting of US companies in particular “threatens to upend the US economy, diminish our global leadership in the digital sphere and jeopardise the security of consumers”.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz has accused Biden’s Federal Trade Commission of quietly helping the EU bring about both the DSA and DMA, despite fears of the negative impact both pieces of legislation could end up having on Americans.