The Digital Services Act: Crackdown on Illegal Content

The Digital Services Act: Crackdown on Illegal Content

The European Union (EU) is implementing ground-breaking legislation called the Digital Services Act (DSA), which aims to address the issue of illegal and problematic content on digital platforms. The DSA applies to large platforms with more than 45 million active monthly users in the EU. Even the world’s largest tech companies face significant fines if they fail to comply with this legislation. This article will delve into the key elements of the DSA and its implications for digital companies.

One of the main obligations imposed by the DSA is that platforms must promptly remove or disable access to illegal content as soon as they become aware of its existence. Additionally, they must report suspected criminal offenses that pose a threat to people’s lives or safety to the relevant authorities. These platforms are required to publish annual reports detailing their actions taken on content moderation and the timeliness of their responses to notifications regarding illegal content. Furthermore, they must disclose the decisions made in disputes with users. The law also mandates the suspension of users who frequently share illegal content like hate speech or fake advertisements.

Stricter Rules and Regulations

The DSA introduces stricter regulations, particularly in the areas of targeted advertising and online shopping. Advertising directed at children aged 17 and under is now prohibited. The EU also emphasizes transparency and user awareness by requiring platforms to disclose how user data is utilized. The law specifically bans targeted advertising based on sensitive data such as ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. It is worth noting that small companies, defined by having fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than 10 million euros, are exempt from the more burdensome obligations imposed by the DSA.

“Very Large” Platforms and Auditing

The EU has classified 22 platforms, including tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Snapchat, TikTok, and clothing retailer Zalando, as “very large” platforms. However, some of these platforms have raised legal challenges against their designations. These platforms are required to assess the risks associated with their services, including the spread of illegal content and privacy infringements. They must establish internal mechanisms to mitigate these risks, such as improving content moderation systems. Additionally, they must grant regulators access to their data to ensure compliance. Furthermore, these platforms will be audited annually by independent organizations at their own expense to ensure adherence to the DSA. They must also appoint an independent internal supervisor to monitor compliance.

The DSA aims to provide an accessible avenue for users to raise complaints regarding platform violations. Users can lodge complaints with the competent national authority if they believe a platform is in violation of the DSA. Online shopping platforms may also be held responsible for any damage resulting from non-compliant or dangerous products bought by users. Violations can result in fines up to six percent of a company’s global turnover, and repeated non-compliance can even lead to the banning of offending platforms from operating in Europe. The EU itself has the authority to sanction “very large” platforms, while each member state must assign competent authorities to investigate and penalize violations by smaller companies.

The Digital Services Act represents a significant step forward in regulating digital platforms and ensuring the removal of illegal and problematic content. By imposing obligations, promoting transparency, and empowering users to file complaints, the EU aims to create a safer online environment. The DSA also places responsibilities on “very large” platforms and allows for independent audits to ensure compliance. As the DSA is enforced, it is likely to set a precedent for digital legislation worldwide.


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