More Questions Than Flags: Reality Check on DSA’s Trusted Flaggers

Article by Ramsha Jahangir, Elodie Vialle and Dylan Moses: “It’s been 100 days since the Digital Services Act (DSA) came into effect, and many of us are still wondering how the Trusted Flagger mechanism is taking shape, particularly for civil society organizations (CSOs) that could be potential applicants.

With an emphasis on accountability and transparency, the DSA requires national coordinators to appoint Trusted Flaggers, who are designated entities whose requests to flag illegal content must be prioritized. “Notices submitted by Trusted Flaggers acting within their designated area of expertise . . . are given priority and are processed and decided upon without undue delay,” according to the DSA. Trusted flaggers can include non-governmental organizations, industry associations, private or semi-public bodies, and law enforcement agencies. For instance, a private company that focuses on finding CSAM or terrorist-type content, or tracking groups that traffic in that content, could be eligible for Trusted Flagger status under the DSA. To be appointed, entities need to meet certain criteria, including being independent, accurate, and objective.

Trusted escalation channels are a key mechanism for civil society organizations (CSOs) supporting vulnerable users, such as human rights defenders and journalists targeted by online attacks on social media, particularly in electoral contexts. However, existing channels could be much more efficient. The DSA is a unique opportunity to redesign these mechanisms for reporting illegal or harmful content at scale. They need to be rethought for CSOs that hope to become Trusted Flaggers. Platforms often require, for instance, content to be translated into English and context to be understood by English-speaking audiences (due mainly to the fact that the key decision-makers are based in the US), which creates an added burden for CSOs that are resource-strapped. The lack of transparency in the reporting process can be distressing for the victims for whom those CSOs advocate. The lack of timely response can lead to dramatic consequences for human rights defenders and information integrity. Several CSOs we spoke with were not even aware of these escalation channels – and platforms are not incentivized to promote mechanisms given the inability to vet, prioritize and resolve all potential issues sent to them….(More)”.