EU Parliament approves "Digital Service Act"

Sicherheit (Pexels, allgemeine Nutzung)[German]On January 20, 2022, the EU Parliament adopted the so-called Digital Service Act in its first reading. This will make online platforms and online marketplaces more accountable and more stringent in combating illegal content, goods and services, and disinformation. The issue of cookies is also addressed in this bill. Negotiations are now beginning on implementation by the member states.



The Digital Services Act (DSA) regulates a number of conditions under which online platforms and online marketplaces may become active in the EU.

Illegal content and disinformation

The proposed Digital Services Act (DSA) establishes clear responsibilities and accountability for intermediary service providers, particularly online platforms such as social media and marketplaces.

The DSA provides for a "notice and action" mechanism and safeguards for the removal of illegal products, services or content online. Hosting service providers should act upon receipt of such a notification "without undue delay, taking into account the nature of the reported illegal content and the urgency of the action." MEPs also included stronger safeguards to ensure that reports are not handled in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner and that fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, are respected.

Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces must ensure that consumers can buy safe products online, MEPs said, and strengthen the obligation to track merchants (the "know your business customer" principle).


Obligations for very large platforms

Verry large online platforms (VLOPs) will be subject to specific obligations due to the particular risks they pose with respect to the dissemination of illegal and harmful content. The DSA would help combat harmful content (which may not be illegal) and the spread of disinformation by including provisions for mandatory risk assessments, mitigation measures, independent audits, and transparency of so-called "recommender systems" (algorithms that determine what users see).

Advertising tracking and personalized advertising

Regarding advertising tracking, the text of the DSA provides for more transparent and informed choices for recipients of digital services, including information on how their data is monetized. Refusing consent must not be more difficult or time-consuming for the recipient than giving consent. If consent is denied or withdrawn, recipients must be offered other options for accessing the online platform, including "options based on tracking-free advertising."

Targeting or techniques that use the data of minors for the purpose of displaying advertisements are prohibited, as is targeting of individuals based on special categories of data that enable the targeting of vulnerable groups. Euractive has published a summary here. Slowly, there are signs of regulation in the area of user tracking and online advertising, as the US Democrats want a law against user tracking in ads about a corresponding project in the US (see Banning Surveillance Advertising Act).

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