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

May 2, 2024

The European Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess if Meta (Facebook and Instagram), may have breached the Digital Services Act.

As regular SCL readers will be aware, Facebook and Instagram were designated as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) on 25 April 2023 under the DSA, as they both have more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU. Therefore, they were required to comply various obligations in the DSA.

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 before the European Parliament elections.

The Commission also suspects that the mechanism for flagging illegal content on the services well as the user redress and internal complaint-mechanisms do not comply with the DSA and there are shortcomings in Meta’s provision of access to publicly available data to researchers. The proceedings are 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.

The Commission’s investigation will focus on the following areas:

  • deceptive advertisements and disinformation;
  • visibility of political content;
  • the non-availability of an effective third-party real-time civic discourse and election-monitoring tool before European parliament elections and other elections in various member states; and
  • the mechanism to flag illegal content.

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. The current opening of proceedings is without prejudice to any other proceeding that the Commission may decide to initiate on any other conduct that may constitute an infringement under the DSA.