EU Digital Services Act

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The Digital Services Act (DSA) applies to a wide variety of online services, ranging from websites to social networks and online platforms, with a view to “creating a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected”.

In November 2020, the European Union introduced a new legislation called the Digital Services Act (DSA) to regulate the activities of tech companies operating within the EU. The aim of the DSA is to create a safer and more transparent online environment for EU citizens by imposing new rules and responsibilities on digital service providers. This includes online platforms such as social media, search engines, e-commerce sites, and cloud services. The provisions in the DSA Act will apply from 17th February 2024, thus giving affected parties time to ensure compliance.

The DSA aims to address a number of issues related to digital services, including:

  • Ensuring that digital service providers take responsibility for the content on their platforms and that they have effective measures in place to combat illegal content, such as hate speech, terrorist content, and counterfeit goods.
  • Requiring digital service providers to be more transparent about their advertising practices, and to disclose more information about the algorithms they use to recommend content.
  • Introducing new rules for online marketplaces to prevent the sale of unsafe products and to ensure that consumers are protected when buying online.
  • Strengthening the powers of national authorities to enforce these rules and to hold digital service providers accountable for any violations.

The DSA takes a layered approach to regulation. The basic obligations under the DSA apply to all online intermediary service providers, additional obligations apply to providers in other categories, with the heaviest regulation applying to very large online platforms (VLOPs) and very large online service engines (VLOSEs).

The four categories are:

  1. Intermediary service providers are online services which consist of either a “mere conduit” service, a “caching” service; or a “hosting” service. Examples include online search engines, wireless local area networks, cloud infrastructure services, or content delivery networks.
  2. Hosting services are intermediary service providers who store information at the request of the service user. Examples include cloud services and services enabling sharing information and content online, including file storage and sharing.
  3. Online Platforms are hosting services which also disseminate the information they store to the public at the user’s request. Examples include social media platforms, message boards, app stores, online forums, metaverse platforms, online marketplaces and travel and accommodation platforms.
  4. (a) VLOPs are online platforms having more than 45 million active monthly users in the EU (representing 10% of the population of the EU). (b) VLOSEs are online search engines having more than 45 million active monthly users in the EU (representing 10% of the population of the EU).

Arther Cox provide a useful table of obligations for each of these categories.