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The DSA explained

The European Union implemented far-reaching legislation to regulate the digital landscape: The Digital Services Act (DSA) aims to overhaul the rules for online services in the EU, which were last updated over two decades ago. Here’s what you need to know about the DSA and its potential impact. 

What is the DSA? 

The Digital Services Act is a regulation that seeks to update the legal framework for online services in the EU. The current rules were established in the 2000s -the e-Commerce Directive- and are widely seen as outdated and inadequate for today’s digital landscape. The DSA aims to address this by imposing new obligations on online platforms and strengthening user protections. 

What would the DSA do? 

The Digital Services Act has several key provisions that would affect online platforms operating in the EU. These include: 

  • New obligations for online platforms: The DSA would impose new requirements on online platforms to ensure they are transparent about their policies and practices. Platforms would need to provide clear information about how they moderate content, what data they collect, and how they use it. They would also need to establish mechanisms for users to appeal content moderation decisions. 
  • Risk assessments: Very large online platforms will be subject to an audited risk assessment that will include an analysis on their vulnerability to illegal goods on their platforms. 
  • Increased liability for online platforms: The DSA would clarify the liability of online platforms for illegal content hosted on their sites. Platforms would be required to take more proactive measures to detect and remove illegal content and face penalties if they fail to do so. 
  • New oversight for online advertising: The DSA would establish new rules for online advertising, requiring platforms to be transparent about the ads they display and the data they collect for advertising purposes. 
  • Greater user protections: The DSA would strengthen user protections, including measures to combat online hate speech, disinformation, and harmful content. Platforms would be required to take action against illegal content, and users would have the right to challenge content moderation decisions. 


What are the potential impacts of the DSA? 

The Digital Services Act has the potential to significantly impact online platforms operating in the EU, as well as users who rely on those platforms. Some of the potential impacts of the DSA include: 

  • New provisions to allow access to data to researchers of key platforms, in order to scrutinize how platforms work and how online risks evolve. This will allow organizations such as Eticas to dissect the intricacies of different platforms and determine their impact in the social realm.  
  • Greater user protections: The DSA’s focus on user protection could benefit users who have been harmed by online content. 
  • Changes to the online advertising industry: The DSA’s new rules for online advertising could lead to changes in the online advertising industry, as platforms adjust their practices to comply with the law as per prohibitions of profiling children or based on special categories of personal data such as ethnicity, political views or sexual orientation. It will also enhance transparency for all advertising on online platforms and influencers’ commercial communications. 


What happens next? 

The Digital Services Act came into force on  November 16 2022, and by February 17, 2023 online platforms operating in the EU had the obligation to publish their number of active users and report this figure to the EU Commission to determine whether the submitting entity is considered “very large”. 

Entities classified as very large must fulfill their obligations under the DSA and submit their initial annual risk assessment to the EU Commission within four months of receiving their classification, while other online intermediaries, search engines, and platforms are required to meet their DSA obligations by February 17, 2024.