European rules define new “digital revolution”

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Open, clear and harmonised obligations for digital platforms and users, including online intermediaries will be part of consumers and businesses in every-day’s existence. Thus, the “twin digital revolution”: i.e. combining provisions of the Digital Market Act (adopted this March) and the present Digital Services Act, DSA is sending a strong signal to the European states, businesses and international counterparts on digital services. 

The EU institutions adopted recently (22 April 2022) new framework under the Digital Services Act (DSA), according to the previous draft by the Commission proposed in December 2020. The DSA will re-balance the rights and responsibilities of digital users, online intermediaries, including small and large online platforms and public authorities. It will provide better protection for internet users and their fundamental rights, as well as define a single set of rules in the internal market, helping smaller platforms to scale up.
Besides, the DSA will upgrade the ground-rules for all online services in the EU-27 by ensuring that the online environment is a safe space: i.e. to safeguard citizens’ freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses.
Besides, the DSA complements a previous EU-27 leaders’ political agreement on the Digital Markets Act adopted in March 2022 and sends a strong signal to the European states, businesses and international counterparts.

EU Commissioner for internal market commented that the DSA was setting “clear and harmonised obligations for digital platforms”, i.e. proportionate to size, impact and risk”. Besides, the Commission will supervise activity of big digital platforms, followed by a possibility of imposing sanctions of up to six percent of global turnover or even a ban on operating in the EU single market in case of repeated serious breaches.
Reference to:

“Re-balancing” digital rights and liabilities
A new EU-wide framework for digital service is expected to “re-balance the rights and responsibilities of users and online intermediaries”, including very large platforms and public authorities. The DSA contains EU-wide due diligence obligations that apply to all digital services that connect consumers to goods and services, as well as to content, including new procedures for faster removal of illegal content to protect users’ fundamental rights online.

Digital/online intermediary services include: a) services offering network infrastructures, i.e. Internet access providers and domain name registrars; b) hosting services, e.g. cloud computing and web-hosting services; c) large online search engines with more than 10% of about 500 million consumers in the EU, and therefore, more responsibility in curbing illegal content online; d) online platforms bringing together sellers and consumers such as online marketplaces, app stores, collaborative economy platforms and social media platforms; and e) very large online platforms, with a reach of more than 10% of the 500 million consumers in the EU, which could pose particular risks in the dissemination of illegal content and societal harms.

The DSA’s structure
The DSA includes the following measures, provisions and mechanisms:
= Measures to counter illegal goods, services or content online, such as: a) mechanisms for users to easily flag such content and for platforms to cooperate with so-called “trusted flaggers”; and b) new obligations on traceability of business users in online market places.
= New measures to empower users and civil society, including: a) possibility to challenge platforms’ content moderation decisions and seek redress, either via an out-of-court dispute mechanism or judicial redress; b) provision of access to vetted researchers to the key data of the largest platforms and provision of access to NGOs as regards access to public data, to provide more insight into how online risks evolve; and c) transparency measures for online platforms on a variety of issues, including on the algorithms used for recommending content or products to users.
= Measures to assess and mitigate risks, such as: a) obligations for very large platforms and very large online search engines to take risk-based action to prevent the misuse of their systems and undergo independent audits of their risk management systems; b) mechanisms to adapt swiftly and efficiently in reaction to crises affecting public security or public health; and c) new safeguards for the protection of minors and limits on the use of sensitive personal data for targeted advertising.
= Enhanced supervision and enforcement by the Commission when it comes to very large online platforms: it also confirms important role for independent “digital services coordinators” and “digital services boards”.

Once adopted by the EU two legislative institutions, the DSA will be directly applicable in the EU-27 member states and will apply fifteen months or from 1 January 2024 (or later, after entry into force). As regards the very large online platforms and very large online search engines, the DSA will apply from an earlier date, i.e. four months after their designation.

More information in the following Commission’s web-links: – Fact page on the Commission’s proposal on the Digital Services Act; and -Digital Services Act: Questions and answers on the Commission proposal.

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