Brussels, 23 April 2022
Access to platforms’ algorithms now possible
Online platforms will have to remove illegal products, services or content swiftly after they have been reported
Protection of minors online reinforced; additional bans on targeted advertising for minors as well as targeting based on sensitive data
Users will be better informed how content is recommended to them
EU negotiators agree on landmark rules to effectively tackle the spread of illegal content online and protect people’s fundamental rights in the digital sphere.
On Friday, Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA). Together with the Digital Markets Act, the DSA will set the standards for a safer and more open digital space for users and a level playing field for companies for years to come.
More responsible online platforms
Under the new rules, intermediary services, namely online platforms – such as social media and marketplaces – will have to take measures to protect their users from illegal content, goods and services.
- Algorithmic accountability: the European Commission as well as the member states will have access to the algorithms of very large online platforms;
- Swift removal of illegal content online, including products, services: a clearer “notice and action” procedure where users will be empowered to report illegal content online and online platforms will have to act quickly;
- Fundamental rights to be protected also online: stronger safeguards to ensure notices are processed in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner and with respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression and data protection;
- More responsible online marketplaces: they have to ensure that consumers can purchase safe products or services online, by strengthening checks to prove that the information provided by traders is reliable (“Know Your Business Customer” principle) and make efforts to prevent illegal content appearing on their platforms, including through random checks;
- Victims of cyber violence will be better protected especially against non-consensual sharing (revenge porn) with immediate takedowns;
- Penalties: online platforms and search engines can be fined up to 6% of their worldwide turnover. In the case of very large online platforms (with more that 45 million users), the EU Commission will have exclusive power to demand compliance;
- Fewer burdens and more time to adapt for SMEs: longer period to apply the new rules will support innovation in the digital economy. The Commission will follow closely the potential economic effects of the new obligations on small businesses.
Safer online space for users
- New transparency obligations for platforms will allow users to be better informed about how content is recommended to them (recommender systems) and to choose at least one option not based on profiling;
- Online advertising: users will have better control over how their personal data are used. Targeted advertising is banned when it comes to sensitive data (e.g. based on sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity);
- Protection of minors: platforms accessible to minors will have to take specific measures to protect them, including by fully banning targeted advertising;
- Manipulating users’ choices through ‘dark patterns’ will be prohibited: online platforms and marketplaces should not nudge people into using their services, for example by giving more prominence to a particular choice or urging the recipient to change their choice via interfering pop-ups. Moreover, cancelling a subscription for a service should become as easy as subscribing to it;
- Compensation: recipients of digital services will have a right to seek redress for any damages or loss suffered due to infringements by platforms.
Harmful content and disinformation
Very large online platforms will have to comply with stricter obligations under the DSA, proportionate to the significant societal risks they pose when disseminating illegal and harmful content, including disinformation.
- Very large online platforms will have to assess and mitigate systemic risks and be subject to independent audits each year. In addition, those large platforms that use so-called “recommender systems” (algorithms that determine what users see) must provide at least one option that is not based on profiling;
- Special measures in times of crisis: when a crisis occurs, such as a public security or health threat, the Commission may require very large platforms to limit any urgent threats on its platforms. These specific actions are limited to three months.
“The Digital Services Act will set new global standards. Citizens will have better control over how their data are used by online platforms and big tech-companies. We have finally made sure that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. For the European Parliament, additional obligations on algorithmic transparency and disinformation are important achievements,” said rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (DK, S&D). “These new rules also guarantee more choice for users and new obligations for platforms on targeted ads, including bans to target minors and restricting data harvesting for profiling.”
The text will need to be finalised at technical level and verified by lawyer-linguists, before both Parliament and Council give their formal approval. Once this process is completed, it will come into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal and the rules will start to apply 15 months later.
From 23 to 27 May, a delegation from the EP’s Internal Market Committee will visit several company headquarters (Meta, Google, Apple and others) in Silicon Valley to discuss in person the Digital Services Act package, and other digital legislation in the pipeline, and hear the position of American companies, start-ups, academia and government officials.
EU Commission welcomes political agreement on rules ensuring a safe and accountable online environment
- Intermediary services offering network infrastructure: Internet access providers, domain name registrars;
- Hosting services such as cloud computing and webhosting services;
- Very large online search engines with more than 10% of the 450 million consumers in the EU, and therefore, more responsibility in curbing illegal content online;
- Online platforms bringing together sellers and consumers such as online marketplaces, app stores, collaborative economy platforms and social media platforms;
- Very large online platforms, with a reach of more than 10% of the 450 million consumers in the EU, which could pose particular risks in the dissemination of illegal content and societal harms.
Concretely, the DSA contains:
- Measures to counter illegal goods, services or content online, such as:
- a mechanism for users to easily flag such content and for platforms to cooperate with so-called ‘trusted flaggers’;
- new obligations on traceability of business users in online market places;
- New measures to empower users and civil society, including:
- the possibility to challenge platforms’ content moderation decisions and seek redress, either via an out-of-court dispute mechanism or judicial redress;
- provision of access to vetted researchers to the key data of the largest platforms and provision of access to NGOs as regards access to public data, to provide more insight into how online risks evolve;
- transparency measures for online platforms on a variety of issues, including on the algorithms used for recommending content or products to users;
- Measures to assess and mitigate risks, such as:
- obligations for very large platforms and very large online search engines to take risk-based action to prevent the misuse of their systems and undergo independent audits of their risk management systems;
- Mechanisms to adapt swiftly and efficiently in reaction to crises affecting public security or public health;
- New safeguards for the protection of minors and limits on the use of sensitive personal data for targeted advertising.
- Enhanced supervision and enforcement by the Commission when it comes to very large online platforms. The supervisory and enforcement framework also confirms an important role of the independent Digital Services Coordinators and Board for Digital Services.
The political agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council is now subject to formal approval by the two co-legislators. Once adopted, the DSA will be directly applicable across the EU and will apply fifteen months or from 1 January 2024, whichever later, after entry into force. As regards the very large online platforms and very large online search engines the DSA will apply from an earlier date, that is four months after their designation.
The Commission made its proposal on the Digital Services Act on 15 December 2020, together with the proposal for the Digital Markets Act, on which the European Parliament and Council reached a political agreement on 22 March 2022, an updated Q&A document is available here. The political agreements on these two files will work together to ensure a safe, open and fair online environment in the EU.
For More Information
Digital Services Act: Questions and answers on the Commission proposal
EVP: CDU-Abgeordnete Schwab und Walsmann (CDU) zur Trilog-Einigung
Die Unterhändler des Europaparlaments und der EU-Mitgliedstaaten haben sich in der Nacht im sog. Trilog auf das Gesetz über Digitale Dienste, den Digital Services Act (DSA) geeinigt. Dazu erklären
Andreas Schwab (CDU), binnenmarktpolitischer Sprecher der EVP-Fraktion:
“Mit harmonisierten Regelungen zur Löschung illegaler Inhalte online, besserer Beaufsichtigung von und durch Plattformen und abschreckenden Sanktionen stellt der DSA das Vertrauen in unsere digitale Umgebung wieder her. Der neue Rechtsrahmenahmen sorgt für ein ausgewogenes Gleichgewicht zwischen den Rechten und Verantwortlichkeiten der Nutzer, der vermittelnden Plattformen und der Behörden und setzt dem Recht des Stärkeren im Internet ein Ende.”
Marion Walsmann (CDU), Stellvertretende Vorsitzende des Rechtsausschusses und Mitglied im Ausschuss für Binnenmarkt und Verbraucherschutz:
“Online-Marktplätze werden in Zukunft mehr tun müssen, um die Verbraucherinnen und Verbraucher vor unsicheren Produkten beim Online-Shopping zu schützen. Das nun eingeführte „Kenne deinen Geschäftskunden“-Prinzip, wodurch die Online-Marktplätze dazu verpflichtet werden, die Händler zurückzuverfolgen, ist ein wichtiger Schritt in die richtige Richtung.”
Die Vorschriften für die Erbringung digitaler Dienstleistungen in der EU sind seit der Verabschiedung der Richtlinie über den elektronischen Geschäftsverkehr im Jahr 2000 weitgehend unverändert geblieben, während sich die digitalen Technologien und Geschäftsmodelle rasant weiterentwickeln und neue gesellschaftliche Herausforderungen entstehen, wie die Verbreitung von gefälschten Waren, Hassreden und Desinformationen im Internet. Vor diesem Hintergrund legte die Europäische Kommission am 15. Dezember 2020 einen neuen Legislativvorschlag für einen Rechtsakt über digitale Dienste (DSA) vor. Der DSA-Vorschlag ist ein horizontales Instrument, das darauf abzielt, ein sichereres und vertrauenswürdiges Online-Umfeld zu schaffen mit Verpflichtungen für verschiedene Arten von Diensten (z.B. Vermittlungsdienste, Hosting-Dienste, Online-Plattformdienste und sehr große Online-Plattformdienste).
Renew Europe: Deal ensures big tech players “cannot act as independent digital islands”
APRIL 23, 2022
The Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament welcomes today’s deal on a Digital Services Act, a binding EU-wide set of obligations applicable to all digital services.
One of our political Group’s priorities was to defend the freedom and openness of the internet for all users and businesses, while improving citizens’ online rights and their safety. We fought to have a fairer internet where fundamental rights are respected, without overburdening SMEs.
Big tech players need to become more transparent, more accessible to all users and to offer an informed choice for consumers while ensuring their online safety. The DSA will also tackle the problem of the lack of removal of illegal content and false flagging of content by creating a better system to fight against these practices. It will also contribute to reduce disinformation, more important than ever in light of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
MEP, Dita CHARANZOVÁ (ANO, Czech Republic), Vice-President of the European Parliament and Renew Europe Group’s rapporteur on Digital Services Act, said:
“It was a long and hard negotiation. But today with the DSA, the internet will be a fairer, safer and more accessible place for all users. It has now been eight years since I started to call for measures, long before we had this proposal, but finally we got there. This will help fight the worst of the internet, while giving our citizens more rights and protections. It’s a great moment for Europe, which will become the first continent to set up such rules.”
“Google, Facebook and other large online platforms will have to act to better protect their users. Europe has made clear that they cannot act as independent digital islands. They play an important role in our societies and they must take more responsibilities and be more transparent. We want innovation, we want digital growth, we want to keep freedom of expression on-line but we also want an internet that is the best of us, not the worst.”
ECR: Digital Services Act (DSA) a big step forward in promoting fairness in digital markets
The ECR Group in the European Parliament welcomes the agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), concluded today in the early hours of the morning after 16 hours of negotiations. Under the deal, the online environment will be much more transparent and safer for users as the DSA provides for increased accountability of online platforms for posted content. “The DSA is a big step forward in promoting greater fairness in digital markets. The main aim of the ECR Group was to guarantee freedom of expression online, increasing transparency and removing incentives for platforms to remove user content too hastily”, ECR shadow rapporteur Adam Bielan commented.
“There was a need to define when platforms should step in to tackle the illegal content. There must be clarity, so that users are preserved from the unilateral restriction of their freedom of expression”, Mr Bielan added.
For the ECR Group, it was also particularly important that the concerns of SMEs were taken into account. Mr Bielan also fended off a proposal that would have led to a massive deletion of websites from search engines.
The Digital Services Act is a key legislation of this Parliamentary term. It will change the functioning of the digital market across the entire European Union. “In the context of rapidly evolving digital technologies and business models and new societal challenges, we’re reshaping the rights and obligations of digital service providers, internet users, customers and business users in the EU”, Mr Bielan said.
The Digital Services Act, originally put forward by the European Commission on 15 December 2020, is a revision of the E-Commerce directive, bringing the baseline for online marketplace operations up to date. The horizontal nature of the regulation addresses issues and regulatory gaps that have arisen over the last two decades. The new set of rules for the digital space creates a novel framework to counter the proliferation of illegal content online and gives individual users the power to challenge platforms’ arbitrary decisions.
ACT welcomes political DSA agreement
BRUSSELS, 23 APRIL 2022. The Association of Commercial Television and Video on Demand Services in Europe (ACT) welcomes the provisional political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA). ACT supports the aims of the DSA, notably its guiding mantra that what is illegal offline should be illegal online. The DSA marks a further step in the essential and long process towards framing the digital space to ensure a diverse and secure media landscape.
We congratulate the co-legislators for finalising negotiations in record time. Commercial broadcasters welcome the text, particularly on the flexibility shown on aspects related to notice and action procedures, the definition of trusted flaggers, the introduction of VPNs in the Regulation, and important measures to tackle harmful content and disinformation online such as risk assessments, crisis protocols and algorithmic transparency. We remain optimistic that the co-legislators have shown equal ambition when it comes to the responsibility and accountability of search engines and their obligation to keep the online environment safe.
The absence of the Know Your Business Costumer (KYBC) principle applicable to all online intermediaries remains a missed opportunity. Introducing a KYBC principle and several other elements remain of utmost importance in the immediate future, such as:
- ensuring that illegally offers of live/time sensitive content is taken down immediately;
- capturing the right players with meaningful due diligence obligations;
- ensuring that the supervision of VLOPs recommendation and moderation algorithms is undertaken by the Digital Services Coordinators to address pro illegal or harmful content.
We will remain vigilant to ensure that the forthcoming implementation of the DSA lives up to its promise of supporting a liability regime that is fit for the digital age. Europe needs to secure a robust, responsible, and reliable online environment to support a pluralistic European media landscape.