The DSA and DMA should provide a stricter framework with more responsibilities and obligations for online actors.  Photo: Shutterstock

The DSA and DMA should provide a stricter framework with more responsibilities and obligations for online actors.  Photo: Shutterstock

The second component of a new set of rules aiming to create a safer digital space, the Digital Services Act, enters into force on 16 November.

Originally put forward by the European Commission, the so-called DSA with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) forms a comprehensive framework for a more fair and safer online space within the European Union.

The DSA puts more responsibility on online platforms to limit the spread of illegal content and products online, increase the protection of minors and give users more choice and better information. As obligations depend on the size, role and impact of an online player, companies with activities in the EU now have until 17 February 2023 to report the number of active end users they welcome.

“I hope [the DSA] can protect the users more, but for the platforms, it will be more difficult to live up to it,” says Greenworlder founder Peter Bartholin. His social media platform--based in Luxembourg--anchors its whole business model on following data protection rules and being a responsible online presence. As such, the company collects user data not to exploit and sell it, but to improve user experience.

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Tracking systems still exist on Greenworlder--which is supposed to launch at the beginning of 2023--but they rely on a personal and conscious input from companies and users, a different approach altogether. “From a legislative point-of-view, the DSA is simply making our business plan and our way of doing things more mainstream.” Other platforms might thus have to glean information from socially responsible platforms that see themselves as “gatekeepers for our users’ data.” 

Size impacts responsibility

While all companies will have to comply with DSA rules, entities considered Very Large Online Platforms or Search Engines (VLOPs and VLOSEs) which have more than 45m users, or 10% of the EU’s population, will have four months to adopt the rules after being given the title. They then will have to publish annual assessments of the risks for fundamental rights, personal data, media pluralism, children’s rights and online harm on their platform.  “It will be an obstacle for many platforms,” says Bartholin, but “it can only create a better online space.” 

State-appointed digital services coordinators will be in charge of reviewing compliance with the DSA in most cases. The Commission however has a direct access to VLOPs and VLOSEs.  

According to Luxembourg law firm Arendt, “the DSA provides for penalties of up to 6% of the annual income or turnover of a provider of intermediary services in the event of infringement. Considering the size of the platforms concerned by the proposal, this could represent a very substantial penalty.

The DSA rules will apply for all regulated entities from 17 February 2024.