European Union: Agreement on digital law against hate and incitement (Digital Services Act, DSA)

Paragraph[German]Delegates from the European Parliament and EU member states agreed on the Digital Services Act (DSA) in Brussels today, April 23, 2022. This is a law on digital services that is intended to ensure stricter supervision of online platforms and more protection for consumers. This primarily affects U.S. platforms such as Facebook or Google, which will have to delete hate speech and other illegal content on the Internet in the European Union more quickly in the future.


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The Digital Services Act (DSA), together with the Digital Markets Act, is intended to set the standards for a safer and more open digital space for users and a level playing field for companies within the EU in the coming years. DSA follows the principle that what is illegal offline must also be illegal online. It aims to protect the digital space against the spread of illegal content and ensure the protection of users' fundamental rights.

Platforms in charge

Under the new rules, intermediary services, i.e. online platforms – such as social media and marketplaces – must take measures to protect their users from illegal content, goods and services. These include:

  • Algorithmic accountability: the European Commission and member states will have access to the algorithms of very large online platforms;
  • Rapid removal of illegal content online, including products and services: a clearer "report and take action" process where users have the ability to report illegal content online and online platforms must act quickly;
  • Protection of fundamental rights online as well: stronger safeguards to ensure that reports are handled in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner and with respect for fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and data protection;
  • More responsible online marketplaces: Ensure that consumers can purchase safe products or services online by strengthening controls to demonstrate that the information provided by merchants is reliable (the "know your business customer" principle) and making efforts to prevent illegal content from appearing on their platforms, including through random sampling;
  • Victims of cyber violence will be better protected, especially from non-consensual sharing (revenge porn), by removing it from circulation immediately;

Online platforms and search engines can be fined up to 6% of their global turnover. In the case of very large online platforms (with more than 45 million users), the EU Commission will have sole authority to require compliance.

Safer online space for users

New transparency obligations for platforms will allow users to be better informed about how content is recommended to them (recommendation systems), and to choose at least one option that is not based on profiling; or so the EU hopes. This will also affect the following:

  • Online advertising: users will have better control over how their personal data is used. Targeted advertising will be prohibited if it involves sensitive data (e.g., based on sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity);
  • Protection of minors: Platforms accessible to minors must take special measures to protect them, including a complete ban on targeted advertising; 
  • Manipulation of users' decisions through "dark patterns" will be prohibited: Online platforms and markets must not trick anyone into using their services by, for example, giving greater prominence to a particular choice or using disruptive pop-ups to urge recipients to change their choice. In addition, cancelling a subscription to a service should be as easy as subscribing;

Recipients of digital services have the right to seek compensation for damages or losses suffered as a result of violations by platforms.


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Harmful content and disinformation

Very large online platforms will have to comply with stricter obligations under the DSA that are proportionate to the significant societal risks they pose when disseminating illegal and harmful content, including disinformation.

  • Very large online platforms must assess and mitigate systemic risks and undergo independent audits every year. In addition, large platforms that use so-called "recommendation systems" (algorithms that determine what users see) must offer at least one option that does not rely on profiling.
  • Special measures in times of crisis: When a crisis occurs, such as a threat to public safety or health, the Commission may require very large platforms to limit urgent threats on their platforms. These special measures are limited to three months.

The latter mainly refers to disinformation by Russia in the context of the Ukraine crisis. Rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (DK, S&D) comments:

The Digital Services Act will set new global standards. Citizens will have better control over how their data is used by online platforms and large technology companies. We have finally ensured that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. For the European Parliament, the additional obligations on transparency of algorithms and disinformation are important achievements. These new rules also guarantee more choice for users and new obligations for platforms on targeted advertising, including the ban on targeting minors and limiting the collection of data for profiling.

Reuters cites the major US corporations with their statements in this article. The tenor in the U.S. press (New York Times article, requires registration) is that the EU has now launched the third strict regulation, while in the U.S. a maximum of two comparable laws have been passed in the last 25 years. In this press release, the Council of the European Union summarizes the results – the European Parliament has published this statement.

Next steps

The text still needs to be revised at the technical level and reviewed by legal and linguistic experts before the Parliament and Council give their formal approval. Once this process is complete, the regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU, and the rules will come into force 15 months later.

From May 23-27, a delegation from the EP's Internal Market Committee will visit several company headquarters (Meta, Google, Apple and others) in Silicon Valley to discuss the digital services legislative package and other proposed digital legislation in person and hear the views of U.S. companies, startups, academia and government officials.


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