EU lawmakers back tough media law against Big Tech's content removal decisions

FILE PHOTO: European flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU lawmakers on Tuesday voted for draft rules targeting Alphabet's Google, Meta Platforms and other large online platforms' content moderation restrictions after some media outlets complained about arbitrary decisions removing their content.

The draft rules require online platforms to carry news content for 24 hours before taking it down if this breaches their content moderation rules.

Known as Article 17 of the Media Freedom Act the European Commission proposed last year to ensure media plurality and safeguard editorial independence, the clause has raised alarm bells among online platforms.

Media should "be notified of the platform's intention to delete or restrict their content alongside a 24-hour window for the media to respond", lawmakers said in a statement. The platform can delete, restrict or refer the case to national regulators after the 24-hour period if it is still against platform terms and conditions.

Tech lobbying group CCIA Europe, whose members include Google, Meta and X, said Article 17 could be exploited by some to spread disinformation.

"The media exemption will empower rogue actors, creating new loopholes to spread fake news rather than fixing anything," CCIA Europe's senior policy manager Mathilde Adjutor said in a statement.

Lawmakers voted to ban using spyware against journalists unless it can be justified as a last resort measure and also require media to be transparent about their ownership.

The lawmakers will have to thrash out details of the proposed rules with EU countries in the coming months before these can be adopted.

Concerns about political interference in media outlets are mounting ahead of crucial elections in Poland this month and the European Parliament next year.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Josie Kao)