The Digital Service Act (DSA) is a set of sweeping rules aimed at reining in Big Tech and protecting the safety of users online.
The DSA is the bloc’s first step in creating a “rulebook” for online platforms, with the goal of creating “a safer and more open digital space, grounded in respect for fundamental rights”.
The rules will regulate companies’ content moderation policies and advertising practices. They will also require platforms to share details of their algorithms with regulators and, in certain cases, with independent researchers.
In particular, the DSA bans targeted advertising that is aimed at children or based on sensitive data such as religion, gender, race or political opinions. It also forbids “dark patterns” – tactics that mislead people into giving personal data to companies online.
The new legislation will most affect 19 large digital platforms that each have more than 45 million EU users: Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon Store, Apple’s App Store, Booking.com, Facebook, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Shopping, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), Wikipedia, YouTube and Zalando. Search engines Google and Bing will also be subject to the rules.
The organisations will have to comply with the DSA from today or face fines of up to 6 per cent of turnover and, potentially, suspension of the service. Small and medium-sized platforms will not be affected until 2024.
Over the past few months, the platforms affected have been taking steps to ensure compliance with the rules. As part of this effort, TikTok, Meta and Snapchat have stopped targeted advertising for users in Europe aged 13-17, while Facebook and Instagram have given users the option to view Stories and Reels only from people they follow, in chronological order.
In addition, Google has pledged to increase data access for those hoping to understand more about how Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play and Google Shopping work.
The European Commission has conducted “stress tests” on several platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat. According to a Commission spokesperson, these assessed whether the platforms could “detect, address and mitigate systemic risks, such as disinformation”.
The EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to curb anticompetitive behaviour and prevent “gatekeepers” from suppressing market competition in the digital sphere, is also expected to come into effect this autumn.
To address what it sees as unfair business practices, the DMA is set to require big tech companies to make their messaging services interoperable with third parties, and give business users access to the data they generate to promote their own offers and conclude contracts with customers outside of the host platform, the EU said.
In 2021, it was revealed that 612 companies, groups and associations spend more than €97m (£83m) annually lobbying against EU digital economy policies, specifically the DMA and DSA. Lobbyists were involved in three-quarters of the 270 meetings that Commission officials had on the two draft laws.