The Digital Services Act (DSA) will force technology companies to remove illegal content and limit advertising based on user data
Companies must be more transparent about their algorithms and give citizens tools to claim their rights
“It is time to bring order to the digital Wild West & rdquor ;. This is how the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, welcomed the Digital Services Law (DSA), The expected regulation of digital market that drives the European Union (EU) and that can transform the internet as we know it. This Thursday the European Parliament has approved its position on a measure that must be negotiated with the European Council and whose final approval could arrive in April or May.
Almost two years after the European Comission (CE) put it on the table, this mammoth legislative project establishes a series of new rules for technology companies that will affect social networks, courier services and stores Applications. Those rules range from eliminating the illegal content published in those spaces to limit the extraction of user data for the personalized advertising, passing through new obligations and transparency mechanisms on the algorithms.
The text approved by the European Parliament and announced by its new president, Roberta Metsola, imposes important restrictions on the digital advertising that feeds on the collection of private data from citizens and prohibits the specific use of sensitive data such as racial or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or religious beliefs and the use of data from minors. The cross-party amendment calling for a complete ban on such advertising has failed. Even so, it represents a significant setback to the economic model of mass surveillance that covers the duopoly formed by Google Y Facebook. In 2020, Google billed 147,000 million dollars in advertising, which represents up to 80% of its income. In the case of Facebook, that percentage grows to 85%, accumulating 84.2 billion.
Digital Services Act: MEPs have agreed a draft set of measures to tackle illegal content, ensure platforms are held accountable for their algorithms and improve content moderation ↓
— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) January 20, 2022
adapt to the times
In recent years, the EU has been overtaken by the meteoric rise of digital platforms that have transformed the economy and society. The consolidation of power by companies like Google, Amazon o Facebook has often gone hand in hand with abusive practices. Brussels has tried to contain them by investigating case by case and applying sanctions based on the Directive on Electronic Commerce, approved in 2000 and still in force. The DSA will allow the law to adapt to the times and go beyond individual cases to regulate digital platforms.
With this directive, the EU seeks to reaffirm its world leadership in Data Protection and streamline the control of large technology companies, pillars that can mark the internet of the next decade. Brussels has reiterated that its will is to create a safer digital space and private For the users. The obligations of the DSA will affect the more than 10,000 digital platforms that operate in European territory, but will have a special impact on the activity of industry giants. The larger the company, the greater the requirements to be met. Although they are foreigners, they must all have legal representatives in Europe.
Stop misinformation and hate
One of the main objectives of this measure is to make everything that is illegal ‘on the street’ also illegal in the digital world. Thus, it seeks to limit the proliferation of disinformation and of hate messages on the platforms, but do it in a “diligent, proportionate and non-discriminatory” way. The directive in force until now, sealed before Facebook, Twitter or YouTube existed, states that these online service providers are not responsible for the illegal content that is shared and should only remove it when a judge so establishes. The DSA seeks to change this. Even so, the text does not go into determining what is legal and what is not, a competence that falls on the laws of each member state.
The DSA has also drawn criticism from organizations in defense of digital rights What Xnet, who have warned that the regulations can lead the platforms to an “excessive withdrawal of legitimate content & rdquor; affecting fundamental rights. That is, that the obligation to stop disinformation and hate messages under threat of sanction degenerates into a censorship of freedom of expression.
On the other hand, the DSA will affect the electronic commerce and, although it does not make them responsible for the possible sale of illegal products, it will force commercial platforms such as Amazon or eBay to verify the real identity of the sellers. That obligation will also be extended to service providers such as domain name registries or content distribution networks. This means that to create a website, for example, the identity of its promoter must first be verified.
The text approved this Thursday establishes that these companies must be much more transparent. Thus, among other things, they must inform the authorities about what measures they take to identify and eliminate the publication of illegal content, about who sponsors the advertisements that users see and about the operation of their recommendation algorithms, which must be periodically submitted to external audits. The academic world must have access to these data in order to study the social impact of these technologies.
It’s time to put some order in the digital “Wild West”.
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) January 19, 2022
In addition, the new European regulation package includes the Digital Markets Standard (DMA), aimed at large companies and that will prohibit preventing users from uninstalling applications installed by default. In case of non-compliance, the DMA establishes sanctions of up to 10% of the world turnover of these companies.
No exception for the media
In recent days, the Europarliament has debated an amendment that called for exempting media of the regulations, which would have meant denying the platforms the challenge of content published by those publishers. However, that exception has finally been rejected. The European Federation of Journalists had opposed this measure and María Ressa, a Filipino journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had described it as a “blank check” to “allow the disinformation on an industrial scale”.
Other organizations in defense of digital rights have celebrated