A new era of tackling illegal content online: Digital Services Act

On 17 February 2024, Digital Services Act started applying to all online platforms in the EU

To recall, the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Market Act (DMA), as well as the Digital Single Market directive (DSM) and remaining provisions of E-commerce Directive form a single set of rules that apply across the whole EU. 

A full text of the DSA can be accessed here

In short, a timeline of the DSA’s main stages of application is as follows:

November 2022 Summer - December 2023 17 February 2024 From 2025 to 2027
DSA’s entry into force Commission designated very large online platforms and of very large online search engines (VLOPs and VLOSEs), which had comply with a set of general obligations All DSA provisions apply. All providers of intermediary services must comply with a set of general obligations (Articles 11 to 32) Evaluation and reports to the Parliament

Thus, starting from 17 February 2024, all regulated entities will need to comply with the DSA.

What does it mean?

DSA addresses the rules of illegal content online and intermediary liability. DSA sets concrete obligations for how digital services must tackle illegal content, with differentiation on how these obligations apply depending on the size of service.

DSA reinforces the principle “what is illegal offline is now illegal online”. To recap, all online platforms with users in the EU, with certain exceptions of small and micro enterprises, must implement measures to, among other things:

  • Counter illegal content, goods, and services: online platforms must provide users with means to flag illegal content, including goods and services. What is more, online platforms will have to cooperate with “trusted flaggers”, specialized entities whose notices will have to be given priority by platforms (Article 22).
  • Maintain an internal complaint handling system (Article 20) and to engage with newly established Out-Of-Court Dispute Settlement bodies (Article 21).
  • Implement a Notice and Action Mechanism (Article 16).
  • Provide statements of reasons to a user affected by any content moderation decision e.g., content removal, account suspension, etc. and upload the statement of reasons to the DSA Transparency database (Article 17).
  • Protect minors: including a complete ban of targeting minors with ads based on profiling or on their personal data (Article 28).
  • Measures and protection against misuse (Article 23): suspension of accounts of those who frequently provide manifestly illegal content.
  • Publish a report of their content moderation procedures at least once per year (Article 15). Providers of online platforms need to submit these statements of reasons to the DSA Transparency Database

For clarity, DSA applies to relevant providers of intermediary services (PIS), among others, to hosting services (e.g. cloud services or domain name systems, background services which connect users to requested website addresses), as well as to other PIS (e.g. internet service providers, or domain), whereas the place of establishment of the PIS is irrelevant as such.

DMA and DSA form a comprehensive set of rules, which will be discussed by a later series of posts by REVERA’s team, because the introduction of these acts indeed set out a new gold standard for online content moderation and online services. 

It is important to comply with this new standard in the EU and ensure that the proper safeguarding policies of the relevant companies are in place. On the other hand, it is equally crucial to keep in mind new change for those who conduct business in the EU through and encounter challenges (i.e. improper account and content moderation, account suspension and termination, IP rights infringement, et cetera). 

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