How Can Impact Assessments Improve Protection from TFGBV?

Digital Policy Hub Working Paper

March 7, 2024

Technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) is a pervasive aspect of digital societies and requires urgent and innovative solutions, which include the adoption of smart regulations. A recent example is the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), which adopts platform accountability provisions that require ex ante impact assessments for systemic risks, including TFGBV. The EU DSA approach moves away from piecemeal strategies and toward more holistic responses to online content harms; however, no guidance to companies and very little detail on how exactly to carry out a systemic risk assessment have been released. The concept of “systemic risk” adopted by the DSA is foreign to the digital regulatory context, as well as to human rights international law standards and practice. It shifts the standard from rights assessments to risk assessments, providing little explanation about their characteristics. Despite the explicit reference to gender-based violence as a form of systemic risk in the DSA, there are many open questions in relation to its applicability and potential impact in preventing and reducing TFGBV. Intrinsic challenges concerning the DSA language, open definitions and unclear implementation framework may jeopardize its potential for success in addressing TFGBV and must be urgently addressed.

About the Author

Paula Martins is a policy advocacy lead at the Association for Progressive Communications. During her fellowship with the Digital Policy Hub, her research will delve into freedom of expression and digital rights.