By Maryant Fernández Pérez

On 18 May 2017, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will vote on whether they want to work on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive reform now, or let a handful of MEPs represent over 500 million EU citizens in the so-called “trilogue” negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the EU, representing the Member States’ governments.

On 25 April 2017, the majority of MEPs (17 against 9, with 4 abstentions) represented in the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) adopted a report on the AVMSD reform. Thanks to the work of some parliamentarians, the report opposes upload filtering. Despite this, the text does not fully safeguard users’ freedom of expression and opinion online. Therefore, EDRi sent a letter to the MEPs asking them not to give their green light to the report and vote against the trilogue mandate for the CULT Committee.

Why should the European Parliament adopt a position before the trilogue negotiations start?

  • Key definitions, such as “video-sharing platforms” and “user-generated content” are not clear;
  • Video-sharing platforms, including social media companies, are asked to regulate content that is not necessarily illegal, such as incitement to hatred based on a list of criteria, including “political opinions or any other opinions”. This lack of precision and clarity can only lead to arbitrary and unaccountable decisions by companies. In a system that respects the rule of law, restrictions on freedom of expression must be provided for by law, and be necessary and proportionate;
  • Companies are asked to have a “self-regulatory” role in the moral development of children, without any assessment of how appropriate this is, and what implications it can have;
  • The Parliament needs a strong mandate to counter some of the worrying positions of the Council.
  • The Parliament should take the time to reflect on the text, adopt amendments to defend the fundamental rights of the citizens it represents, and bring legal certainty and clarity. This would contribute to making the process more democratic;
  • Once the trilogue negotiations are concluded, the other MEPs will not have real power to change the text. While amendments to the political agreement reached in trilogues would be possible, political majorities are very difficult to reach because it would reopen the negotiations.

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Letter to MEPs asking to reject trilogue mandate and adopt a first reading position (17.05.2017)
https://edri.org/files/AVMSD/mail_ep-triloguesmandate_20170517.pdf

Audiovisual Media Services Directive reform: Document pool (15.05.2017)
https://edri.org/avmsd-reform-document-pool/

AVMSD reform: Document pool infographic (15.05.2017)
https://edri.org/files/AVMSD_docpool.pdf

CULT report on the AVMSD reform (10.05.2017)
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2F%2FEP%2F%2FNONSGML%2BREPORT%2BA8-2017-0192%2B0%2BDOC%2BPDF%2BV0%2F%2FEN

AVMS Directive: It isn’t censorship if the content is mostly legal, right? (27.04.2017)
https://edri.org/avmsd-it-isnt-censorship-if-the-content-is-mostly-legal/

Trilogues: the system that undermines EU democracy and transparency (20.04.2016)
https://edri.org/trilogues-the-system-that-undermines-eu-democracy-and-transparency/

(Contribution by Maryant Fernández Pérez, EDRi)

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