The Digital Services Act (DSA), published in the EU Official Journal as Regulation (EU) 2022/2065, complements the eCommerce Directive 2000/31/EC and sets clear obligations for digital service providers to avoid the spread of illegal content, online disinformation and other societal risks.
The DSA applies to a wide range of online intermediaries, which include :
* online intermediary services such as internet service providers, cloud services or social networks.
* hosting providers and in particular large online platforms such as content- sharing platforms or online marketplaces are subject to specific obligations and
* very large online platforms and search engines (“VLPs” : the number of average monthly users is 10% or more of the total EU consumers).
Some of the new obligations include the following :
* The DSA imposes new measures to counter illegal content online and updates the process by which digital service providers must act to rapidly delete illegal goods and services. Notice and action mechanism obligation.
* Online platforms will be required to set up complaint handling system and out -of court dispute settlement system, communicate with trusted flaggers, take measures against abusive notices and deal with users’ complaints.
* More transparency on recommender systems and online advertising is obligatory, including better information on terms and conditions, on the algorithms used for recommending content or products to users.
* Targeted advertising on online platforms by profiling minors and by using misleading tricks (“dark patterns”) is prohibited.
* Very large platforms and search engines undergo more accountability obligations and additional online advertising transparency. They must conduct annual external audit reports on their compliance with the DSA and prevent abuse of their systems by taking risk-based measures including independent audits of their risk management measures.
These new obligations are proportionate to the size, type and risks platforms pose to the society.
A new supervisory structure is established. Each Member State will need to appoint a Digital Services Coordinator. However, when it comes to supervision of very large online platforms and online search engines, it will be the Commission who will be the sole authority to supervise and enforce the specific obligations under the DSA.
Users, citizens and minors, even smaller platforms will also benefit from major advantages.
* new rights for users, including a right to complain to the platform, seek out-of-court settlements, complain to their national authority in their own language, or seek compensation for breaches of the rules.
* a safer online experience to freely express their ideas, communicate and shop online, by reducing their exposure to illegal activities, content or services and by protecting their fundamental rights.
* smaller platforms, SMEs and start-ups, will now operate under a harmonized framework applicable throughout the Digital Single Market which will both facilitate the access to cross-border customers and at the same time reduce the compliance costs.
Nevertheless, questions arise as to how freedom of speech is safeguarded against both under-removal and over-removal of content on grounds of illegality. Moreover, the role of the Coordinators is also questionable as to the impartiality and the control.
In general, the DSA aims to provide better protection for users and fundamental rights online, to establish a powerful transparency and accountability pan- European framework for online platforms and to provide a new supervisory structure in order to promote European values in the online space.
The Editorial Team