The Digital Services Act: A Game-Changer for Digital Companies

The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) is a groundbreaking legislation that places stringent demands on digital companies to crack down on illegal and problematic content. With its wide-reaching scope, the law aims to hold tech giants accountable for their actions and protect users’ rights. Since its introduction in August, the DSA has already applied to very large platforms, and now, from Saturday onwards, it will encompass all digital companies, albeit with some exemptions for smaller firms. This article explores the key elements of the DSA and its implications for digital platforms.

One of the central obligations imposed by the DSA is that all platforms must swiftly remove illegal content or make it inaccessible as soon as they become aware of it. This proactive approach to content moderation is crucial in tackling issues such as hate speech, fake ads, and criminal offenses that threaten public safety. To ensure transparency and accountability, companies are required to publish an annual report detailing the actions taken on content moderation, including response times and decisions made in disputes with users. Furthermore, the law empowers platforms to suspend users who frequently engage in the dissemination of illegal content.

The DSA introduces stricter regulations regarding targeted advertising, particularly concerning the protection of vulnerable groups such as children. Platforms are now prohibited from running targeted ads for individuals aged 17 and under. Additionally, the law prohibits targeted advertising based on sensitive data, such as ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. These measures aim to safeguard user privacy and prevent discriminatory practices that exploit personal information.

Taking a step towards greater transparency, the DSA aims to give users more control over their data. Platforms must provide users with clear information on how their data is used, emphasizing the need for informed consent. Moreover, the law prohibits targeted advertising that relies on sensitive data, ensuring that individuals’ personal information is safeguarded. By prioritizing data protection, the DSA encourages digital companies to adopt responsible practices that respect users’ privacy.

The DSA distinguishes between “very large” platforms and smaller companies. 22 major tech giants, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok, and clothing retailer Zalando, are classified as “very large” platforms. These companies are subjected to stricter compliance obligations, such as the need to assess risks associated with the spread of illegal content and infringements on privacy. They are also required to establish internal structures to mitigate these risks, which may include implementing improved content moderation systems. To ensure compliance, independent audits of these platforms’ practices will be conducted annually.

Under the DSA, users have the right to lodge complaints with their national authority if they believe a platform is in violation of the legislation. This provision empowers users to hold companies accountable for any breaches of the law. Additionally, the DSA holds online shopping sites responsible for any damages resulting from non-compliant or dangerous products purchased by users. This obligation emphasizes the need for platforms to prioritize user safety and ensure the quality and legitimacy of the products they offer.

The DSA establishes a robust enforcement mechanism to maintain compliance. Violations of the law can result in significant fines, which may reach up to six percent of a company’s global turnover. In cases of repeated non-compliance, the EU has the authority to ban offending platforms from operating within its jurisdiction. Very large platforms will be monitored and sanctioned directly by the European Commission, while competent authorities in each member state will investigate and sanction violations by smaller companies. Cooperation between member states and the European Commission is essential for the effective enforcement of the DSA.

The Digital Services Act heralds a new era of regulation for digital companies operating within the European Union. By compelling platforms to crack down on illegal and problematic content, enhancing user data protection, and expanding user rights, the DSA aims to create a safer and more transparent digital environment. The law represents a significant step towards holding tech giants accountable for their actions and ensuring the well-being of European users. As digital companies adapt to the requirements of the DSA, it is crucial for them to prioritize user safety and privacy while fostering innovation and growth in the digital landscape.

Technology

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