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INNOVATION| 26.09.2023

One month after the Digital Services Act went into effect: What impact has it had?

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In a world that’s becoming more and more connected and technology dependent, regulating digital services has become a global priority. In this context, the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) attempts to address this widespread concern for everyone’s security online.

Since it went into effect on August 25, 2023, this new law has been concentrated at the center of online security talks. Its aim is to create a safer, more responsible online environment that does a better job of protecting users and their fundamental rights. At the same time, it establishes a clear and solid framework for transparency and accountability for digital platforms.

In this article, we go into depth on what the Digital Services Act is, the implications of this new law, and how it will create a safer and more ethical digital future for all.

Which digital platforms are affected by this new law?

The DSA applies to every online platform, including the very large online platforms (VLOPs), those with more than 45 million active users per month in the EU (Meta, Google, Amazon, etc.). The VLOPs must comply with a series of additional obligations, such as:

  • Taking measures to prevent the dissemination of illegal content, such as hate speech, incitement of violence and material containing child sexual abuse.
  • Providing users with tools that allow them to report and delete illegal content.
  • Being more transparent about their algorithms and how they work.
  • Allowing users to choose how their personal data is used.

The DSA also established a range of sanctions against companies that choose not to comply with the law. Fines imposed can reach up to 6% of the company’s global yearly revenue.

Where do the companies stand?

The Digital Services Act has the potential to transform the online environment. It’s too early to say what the actual impact will be, but it’s an important step “in the direction of a safer, more responsible and ethical digital world,” as indicated by official organizations.

The EU’s enforcement strategy consists in phasing the implementation of these measures according to platform size.

The very large online platforms had to apply changes during the first month: around 25 VLOPs are already complying with the new rules. For example, TikTok offers EU users the option of choosing whether they want to use certain algorithms. Snapchat is also implementing changes so that users can deactivate personalized content.

In this context, and even with most companies working in line with the new legislation, Zalando and Amazon have chosen to lodge appeals with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to challenge their inclusion on this list.

How does the Digital Services Act affect users?

The Digital Services Act is formulated to have a positive impact on users in several different ways:

  • Greater security and data protection

The law imposes new regulations on digital platforms to remove harmful and illegal content, such as hate speech, violence and misinformation. It also requires platforms to be more transparent about their algorithms and content moderation practices. This helps to create a safer and more respectful online environment for users.

  • More control over personal data

The Digital Services Act also gives users more control over their personal data.  Platforms must now obtain explicit consent from users before collecting or using their personal data. They must also provide users with access to their data and the possibility to delete it. This aims to protect users’ privacy and their right to informational self-determination.

  • More options and opportunities

The law promotes competition and innovation in the digital marketplace. Online platforms must now allow users to choose how they are tracked and must provide them with alternatives to their own products and services. This is intended to help them have more choice online. 

These are some specific examples of how the Digital Services Act is affecting users:

  • In Spain, the platform X (formerly Twitter) has started tagging posts containing disinformation about the war in Ukraine.
  • In France, the e-commerce platform Amazon has started allowing users to choose how they are tracked.
  • In Germany, Facebook has started to provide users with alternatives to its own products and services, such as the possibility to use a web browser to access Facebook instead of the mobile application. 

The impact of regulation on users is likely to continue to grow over time. As digital platforms adapt to the new obligations, users will experience further improvements in security, protection of rights, control over personal data and choice and opportunities.