Commission opens formal proceedings against Facebook and Instagram under the Digital Services Act

Today, the European Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether Meta, the provider of Facebook and Instagram, may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “This Commission has created means to protect European citizens from targeted disinformation and manipulation by third countries. If we suspect a violation of the rules, we act. This is true at all times, but especially in times of democratic elections. Big digital platforms must live up to their obligations to put enough resources into this and today’s decision shows that we are serious about compliance. Protecting our democracies is a common fight with our Member States. Today in Prague I want to thank Prime Minister Fiala for his active role in raising the issue at European level, along with the triggering by Belgium of the emergency mechanism for exchange of information between Member States.”

The suspected infringements cover Meta’s policies and practices relating to deceptive advertising and political content on its services. They also concern the non-availability of an effective third-party real-time civic discourse and election-monitoring tool ahead of the elections to the European Parliament, against the background of Meta’s deprecation of its real-time public insights tool CrowdTangle without an adequate replacement.

Further, the Commission suspects that the mechanism for flagging illegal content on the services (“Notice-and-Action”) as well as the user redress and internal complaint-mechanisms are not compliant with the requirements of the Digital Services Act and that there are shortcomings in Meta’s provision of access to publicly available data to researchers. The opening of proceedings is based on a preliminary analysis of the risk assessment report sent by Meta in September 2023, Meta’s replies to the Commission’s formal Requests for Information (on illegal content and disinformation, data access, subscription for no-ads policy and generative AI), publicly available reports and the Commission’s own analysis.

If proven, these failures would constitute infringements of Articles 14(1), 16(1), 16(5), 16(6), 17(1), 20(1), 20(3), 24(5), 25(1), 34(1), 34(2), 35(1) and 40(12) of the DSA. The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of formal proceedings does not prejudge its outcome.

After the formal opening of proceedings, the Commission will continue to gather evidence, for example by sending additional requests for information, conducting interviews or inspections.