Digital Services Act: Safeguarding Online Interactions In The EU

On 17 February 2024, the Digital Services Act (DSA) came into effect, applying to all online intermediaries operating within the EU.
European Union Privacy
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On 17 February 2024, the Digital Services Act (DSA) came into effect, applying to all online intermediaries operating within the EU. This comprehensive regulation aims to enhance online safety, fairness, and transparency for users.

Key provisions under the DSA

Online platforms that have users in the EU, excluding small and micro enterprises with fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover below €10 million, are required to adopt measures for:

  • Counteracting illegal content, goods, and services: Platforms must enable users to flag illegal content and cooperate with trusted flaggers.
  • Protecting minors: Bans on targeting minors with advertisements based on profiling or personal data.
  • Providing users with informationabout advertisements, including transparency on why advertisements are shown and who paid for them.
  • Prohibiting targeted advertisements based on sensitive data like political or religious beliefs.
  • Providing statements of reasons to a user affected by any content moderation decision.
  • Offering users access to complaint mechanisms to challenge content moderation decisions.
  • Requiring platforms to publish annual reports on content moderation procedures.
  • Ensuring clear terms and conditions are provided to users and disclosing parameters for content recommendation systems.
  • Designating a point of contact for authorities and users.

Apart from online platforms, the DSA extends its scope to hosting services (such as cloud services or domain name systems, which facilitate user connections to requested website addresses) and online intermediaries (such as internet service providers or domains), with specific obligations for each category.

Digital Services Coordinators

Since August 2023, the DSA has applied to Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Search Engines (VLOSEs), with additional platforms joining the compliance process. Platforms not designated as VLOPs or VLOSEs will be supervised by national Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs), tasked with enforcing DSA rules within their respective Member States.

In practice, the responsibilities of the DSCs will include:

  • Handling user complaints and transmitting them to relevant authorities.
  • Certifying existing out-of-court appeal mechanisms for users.
  • Assessing and awarding the status of trusted flaggers to suitable applicants or eligible entities.
  • Facilitating researchers' access to platform data.
  • Enforcing compliance with the DSA through investigations, fines, and interim measures.

To ensure consistent application of the DSA, an independent advisory group called the European Board for Digital Services has been established. The Board advises on enforcement, addresses emerging issues, and monitors systemic risks and best practices.

Next steps

In March 2024, the Commission plans to adopt guidelines on risk mitigation for electoral processes. Public consultation on data access is expected in April, with adoption by July 2024 and enforcement by October 2024. Additionally, an Implementing Act on transparency report templates is scheduled for adoption in May.

The European Commission's news article can be found here.

The European Commission's overview of the DSA can be found here.

Our previous blog post on the DSA can be found here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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