The European Parliament and EU Member States have reached an agreement on the Digital Services Act. The new set of rules was initially proposed by the European Commission back in December 2020, and it aims to make big tech companies accountable for the content users encounter on the Internet.
The Digital Services Act is a complement to the Digital Markets Act, which goal is to limit the power of the biggest technology companies. As a reminder, one of the implications of this new legislation would be that messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage would need to become interoperable so that smaller messaging platforms can compete with them.
“The Digital Services Act will upgrade the ground-rules for all online services in the EU. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses. It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a press release.
In practice, the Digital Services Act will force all digital platforms offering goods, services, or content to ensure that they’re not exposing consumers to illegal content. “The greater the size, the greater the responsibilities of online platforms” emphasized the European Commission President.
The implications of the Digital Services act are quite complex, but they will apply to Internet access providers, cloud computing services, search engines, online marketplaces, and social media platforms. The DSA contains measures to allow consumers to flag illegal goods, services, and content on the Internet, and it will also require online marketplaces to ensure the traceability of business users.
The DSA will also require platforms to be more transparent about the algorithms they use to recommend content to users, with new safeguards to protect minors from targeted advertising. Very large platforms and search engines will also be required to prevent the misuse of their systems for spreading disinformation, especially during crises affecting public security or public health.
“The DSA is setting clear, harmonised obligations for platforms – proportionate to size, impact and risk, said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market. “It entrusts the Commission with supervising very large platforms, including the possibility to impose effective and dissuasive sanctions of up to 6% of global turnover or even a ban on operating in the EU single market in case of repeated serious breaches,” Breton also emphasized.
The Digital Services Act will be enforced in 2024, with an exception for the very large online platforms and very large online search engines that have yet to be defined by European institutions. Once this is done, the DSA will apply to them four months after their designation. “As the law is finalised and implemented, the details will matter. We look forward to working with policymakers to get the remaining technical details right to ensure the law works for everyone,” Google shared in a statement with Reuters.