Unblocking a Personal Profile on Facebook Under the Digital Services Act

Question

I'm running an ambitious bootstrapped company called Justjoin.it - a job board for programmers. I used Facebook and my personal to talk about company building, and our successes. Facebook blocked my profile claiming I'm using it for advertising by posting from my personal profile. Can Digital Services Act help me unblock my profile?

DSActUnclear

Answer

The Digital Services Act (DSA) provides certain protections and avenues for users in the EU, like the entrepreneur running Justjoin.it, when their profiles on platforms such as Facebook are blocked. Under the DSA, the platform must clearly explain any restrictions in their terms, give specific reasons for the block, and provide access to an internal complaint system, as well as an out-of-court dispute settlement. If these measures fail, you can escalate the issue to the Digital Services Coordinator in your EU Member State. Therefore, if your profile has been unfairly blocked, the DSA may help address and potentially reverse this action.

Legal trace

This Regulation shall apply to intermediary services offered to recipients of the service that have their place of establishment or are located in the Union, irrespective of where the providers of those intermediary services have their place of establishment. (Article 2, Paragraph 1)

The Digital Services Act (DSA) applies to all intermediary services offered within the European Union, irrespective of where the service providers, like Facebook, are based. This means if you are in the EU and have been blocked, the DSA could apply to your situation.

‘intermediary service’ means one of the following information society services: (i) a ‘mere conduit’ service, … (ii) a ‘caching’ service, … (iii) a ‘hosting’ service … (Article 3, Section g)

Facebook fits into the category of a ‘hosting service’ because it stores user-generated content. This definition is critical since it frames Facebook within the scope of the DSA, which sets forth certain obligations for such service providers.

‘recipient of the service’ means any natural or legal person who uses an intermediary service, in particular for the purposes of seeking information or making it accessible; (Article 3, Section b)

You, as a Facebook user, are considered a ‘recipient of the service.’ This is important as the rights and obligations outlined in the DSA apply to you and can therefore influence the avenues available for unblocking your profile.

‘illegal content’ means any information that, in itself or in relation to an activity, … is not in compliance with Union law or the law of any Member State which is in compliance with Union law… (Article 3, Section h)

The DSA defines ‘illegal content’ as information or activities that violate EU law or a Member State’s law aligned with EU law. For your profile to be blocked legally by Facebook under the DSA, the content or activity should fit this illegality criteria.

Providers of intermediary services shall include information on any restrictions that they impose in relation to the use of their service in their terms and conditions. (Article 14, paragraph 1)

Facebook is required to specify any restrictions on their services, including content moderation policies, within their terms and conditions. Being aware of these terms is crucial to understand the basis of the profile blockage.

The service provider shall act in a diligent, objective and proportionate manner in applying and enforcing the restrictions referred to in paragraph 1, with due regard to the rights and legitimate interests of all parties involved… (Article 14, paragraph 4)

Facebook’s enforcement of their terms must be done in a fair and proportionate manner, while respecting users’ rights. If your blockage appears unwarranted or excessive, this DSA provision supports the argument that the action could be challenged.

Providers of hosting services shall provide a clear and specific statement of reasons to affected recipients of the service for any restrictions imposed… (Article 17)

Facebook should have explained exactly why your profile was blocked. Without a clear statement of reasons, their action could be contested based on the DSA’s requirements for transparency in content moderation.

Providers of online platforms shall provide recipients of the service… with access to an effective internal complaint-handling system… (Article 20)

You have the right under the DSA to challenge Facebook’s decision to block your profile using their internal complaint-handling system. This could be your first step to appeal the blockage.

Providers of online platforms shall ensure that information about the possibility for recipients of the service to have access to an out-of-court dispute settlement… (Article 21)

Facebook must provide you with access to an out-of-court dispute settlement if you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal complaint system. This gives you an alternative recourse to resolve the issue without going to court.

Recipients of the service… shall have the right to lodge a complaint against providers of intermediary services alleging an infringement of this Regulation with the Digital Services Coordinator… (Article 53)

If internal and out-of-court remedies are not satisfactory, you can lodge a complaint with the Digital Services Coordinator in your EU Member State. They assess infringement claims and can provide a path for official redress.

To summarize, the DSA offers several mechanisms that may assist you in addressing the block on your Facebook profile. These include a requirement for Facebook to be transparent in their restrictions and content moderation, to provide clear reasons for blocking, and to offer both internal and out-of-court channels for complaints and appeal. If those do not result in a satisfactory outcome, there is also the possibility to escalate the issue to a Digital Services Coordinator for further action.