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EU's Digital Services Act: A Game-Changer for Online Platforms

With fundamental human rights at its core, the European Union (EU) establishes a landmark content moderation guideline. Through the new Digital Services Act (DSA) the EU promises to empower users to better protect their rights online.

The DSA is the long-awaited Regulation, proposed by the European Commission in December 2020 and entered into force in November 2022 which provides an update to the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000 (E-Commerce Directive). This new legal framework of digital space aims to make the internet a safer place by making sure that harmful content, such as disinformation, does not end up on your screens.

While one can argue that getting rid of the harmful content is the cornerstone of the regulation, others might consider that banning targeted ads, which use sensitive information, is the main objective. The DSA imposes a duty-of-care obligation, including regular risk assessments and reporting, on “very large online platforms,” recognizing the potential risks they pose to fundamental rights. Platforms are also required to clearly label every ad with information about the buyer and other details, making advertising more transparent. Companies like Twitter, which rely heavily on advertising revenue, have stated they intend to continue using targeted ads, which is potentially against the DSA. Such statements have us eagerly anticipating what will happen over the next few months. 

Due to significant changes that the widespread application of this Regulation across the EU’s territory will bring, the DSA has already sparked a heated debate with far-reaching implications for the technology industry and the future of the digital single market. While some argue that the regulations will stifle innovation and harm the tech industry, others believe that they are necessary to address the challenges posed by the digital economy, including illegal content, counterfeit goods, and the protection of personal data.

Currently, as the Digital Services Act (DSA) has become effective, online platforms have until 17 February 2023 to report the number of active users on their website to the Commission. The Commission will use this information to decide if a platform should be considered a large online platform or search engine. If labeled as such, the platform will have four months to follow the rules set by the DSA, including doing an annual risk assessment and reporting it to the Commission. On 17 February 2024, all entities covered by the DSA must be fully compliant with its regulations, as EU Member States are set to have their Digital Services Coordinators in place by then.

Stay tuned for further updates on the development of the DSA to capture its impact on fostering a safer internet space across the whole EU.