- The DSA is a legislative act that subjects online marketplaces, social media and search engines to stricter rules. It was developed by the European Commission and comes into force on 17/2/2024.
- In addition to the known internet multinationals (Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.), rules for online intermediaries and service providers also apply.
- If your organisation has more than 50 employees, you need to comply with more administrative obligations. These obligations therefore do not apply to micro or small enterprises.
- Why these rules? To guarantee a safe, digital space where the fundamental freedoms of EU citizens and users of digital services are protected.
Obligations of the Digital Services Act
Here is a list of the rules that the DSA lays down.
1. For suppliers of ‘intermediary services’
- Designate a single point of contact for the authorities and the European Commission.
- Provide a single point of contact that your (end) customers can contact.
- Designate a legal representative. This only applies to organisations not established in the EU.
- Draw up clear and detailed general terms and conditions.
- Notify your (end) customers or users of important amendments in your general terms and conditions.
- Draw up a transparency report, unless you are a micro or small enterprise (and you have less than 50 employees).
With 'suppliers of intermediary services', they mean: registries, registrars and online intermediaries.
2. For online intermediaries and online platforms
- Develop a clear way for people to flag illegal content (also referred to as ‘notice and action procedure’).
- Provide clear and specific reasons for restricting (less) use of your service by (end) customers.
- Inform the authorised (police) services when you think criminal offenses are being or have been committed.
With 'online intermediaries and online platforms', they mean: online marketplaces, social networks, content-sharing platforms, app stores, and online travel and accommodation platforms.
Exemption from liability: what is it?
The DSA again confirms the ‘exemption from liability’ as already existed in the e-commerce directive. For example, you, a registrar, are not responsible for the dissemination of illegal content on a website as long as you are not the originator, you are not aware of the illegal nature, and you attempt to remove the content as soon as you find out about the existence of the illegal content.
This exemption also remains in force when you actively detect and combat illegal content. But the opposite also applies: you are not obliged to actively monitor and look for illegal activities. It goes without saying that you do have to collaborate with the authorities and law enforcement services. For example, a judicial or administrative order to act against illegal content or for specific information about a customer.
Back to the beginning: what is the DSA?
DSA stands for ‘Digital Services Act’. It is a set of rules developed by the European Commission that applies across the whole EU. The DSA and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) form the Digital Service Package, which clarifies the regulations for a wide range of online services and platforms.
The goals of these rules? To create a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users are protected. To establish a level playing field that fosters innovation, growth and competitiveness.
Why was the DSA drawn up?
Digital services have changed our lives. They provide convenience and connectivity but they also bring challenges: online commerce in illegal goods, services, but also illegal content, misuse of online platforms and disinformation.
The European Commission wants to “create fair conditions for consumers and businesses for many digital services across the EU.” It wants to make us resilient against internet giants such as Apple, Microsoft, TikTok, etc.
That is why the DSA was introduced. A set of rules that needs to provide more transparency and thus:
- combats illegal content, fake news and disinformation.
- provides insights into the operation of algorithms that major players use.
- counters online manipulation (‘dark patterns’).
- guarantees online safety. This refers to the prevention of online fraud, abuse and illegal trade. Advertising specifically targeting minors is prohibited.
Timing and target group of the DSA
The DSA has a wide scope. The regulations chiefly target ‘VLOPs’ (Very Large Online Platforms) and ‘VLOSEs’ (Very Large Online Search Engines). But ‘intermediary services’ also fall under the DSA. This includes hosting providers, registries and registrars.
For larger internet players, such as Wikipedia, Apple, Microsoft and TikTok, the rules went into effect in phases (late 2022 and over the course of 2023). The DSA comes into full force on 17 February 2024.