This week marks the implementation of the EU Digital Services Act, which is set to revolutionize the operations of internet giants in Europe.
Starting this week, the Digital Services Act (DSA) of the European Union will be implemented, impacting major tech and social media giants such as Google, Facebook, and TikTok.
This regulation marks a significant achievement in overseeing the Internet giant, with the aim of ensuring user safety and curbing the dissemination of illegal or inappropriate content that breaches the platform’s terms of service.
Privacy and freedom of speech are also given paramount importance, ensuring the safeguarding of the fundamental rights of Europeans.
Starting from Friday, tech giants will be required to adhere to DSA regulations as mandated by the European Union, which has been at the forefront of regulating these companies worldwide. Non-compliance with these rules may lead to substantial fines amounting to billions of euros.
Please have a glance at the events occurring this week.
What platforms are impacted?
So far, 19 platforms have been affected, including eight social media platforms: Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Amazon, Booking.com, Alibaba’s AliExpress, and Zalando from Germany are among the five online marketplaces that have experienced the impact as well.
The new regulations apply to Google Play and Apple’s App Store, along with Google’s Search and Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Google Maps and Wikipedia are not included.
The classification of the EU list is determined by the number of platform users. Platforms with 45 million or more users (which accounts for 10 percent of the EU’s population) will be subject to the most stringent DSA regulations.
Nevertheless, there are certain absences on the EU list that have been highlighted by insiders in Brussels, including notable platforms like eBay, Airbnb, Netflix, and Pornhub.
Every European-focused digital service provider will eventually need to adhere to the DSA. Nevertheless, they will encounter fewer responsibilities compared to prominent platforms and will have an additional six months to align themselves with the regulations.
Meta Platforms has postponed the release of its Twitter competitor, Threads, in the European Union, citing concerns regarding the ambiguity surrounding new regulations.
What upcoming changes can we expect in DSA?
New measures have been introduced by the platform to enable European users to report illegal online content and questionable products. Companies are required to promptly and fairly remove such flagged content as per the obligations set forth.
A new avenue has been established by Amazon for reporting potentially illegal products, along with additional details regarding third-party sellers.
TikTok users now have access to a range of “additional reporting options” to address illegal content, including advertising. These reporting categories, such as hate speech, harassment, suicide and self-harm, misinformation, and fraud and scams, enable users to accurately identify and report problematic content.
According to the app developed by Chinese parent company ByteDance, a dedicated team of moderators and legal experts will be responsible for assessing flagged content to determine if it violates the app’s policies or is deemed illegal and needs to be taken down.
According to TikTok, the individual who uploaded the content and reported it will receive an explanation for its removal and will have the opportunity to challenge the decision.
TikTok users have the option to disable video recommendation systems that rely on their previous viewing history. These systems have faced criticism for pushing social media users towards more extreme content. When personalized recommendations are disabled, TikTok’s feed will suggest videos to European users based on popular trends both within their region and worldwide.
Advertisements targeting vulnerable categories of people, such as children, are prohibited by the DSA.
Snapchat has announced that in the European Union and the United Kingdom, advertisers will be restricted from utilizing personalization and customization tools when targeting teenagers. On the other hand, users aged 18 and above will enjoy enhanced transparency and control over the advertisements they encounter, with access to detailed information and explanations regarding the specific ads displayed to them.
TikTok has implemented comparable modifications that restrict users aged 13 to 17 from being exposed to customized advertisements that are influenced by their activities on or off the platform.
Are companies engaged in lobbying activities to oppose the EU?
Zalando, a prominent German online fashion retailer, has recently lodged a legal dispute against its classification in the DSA’s roster of largest online platforms, claiming unjust treatment.
Despite the minimal likelihood of illegal content appearing in its meticulously curated collection of clothing, bags, and shoes, Zalando is still introducing a content flagging system for its website.
The European Union’s head of public affairs for Zalando, Aurelie Collier, expressed the company’s endorsement of the DSA.
He added that it would usher in numerous positive transformations for the consumers. However, he emphasized that Zalando, in general, does not carry the same level of inherent risk as other platforms. Therefore, he believed that Zalando does not belong in that category.
The EU’s top court has received a comparable case filed by Amazon.
Companies that fail to comply with regulations could potentially be fined up to 6 percent of their worldwide revenue, which could amount to billions of dollars. Additionally, they may also be barred from operating within the EU.
However, the DSA intends to refrain from immediately imposing fines for individual violations. Instead, it aims to ensure that companies provide the EU with information about their algorithms, in order to assess whether they have implemented appropriate processes.
At the University of East Anglia, Associate Professor Sally Broughton Mikova expressed her concerns regarding the behavior of users, including bullying and the dissemination of illegal content, as well as the negative effects caused by the functioning and contribution of platforms.
Broughton Mikova, academic co-director at the Center on Regulation in Europe, a Brussels-based think tank, stated that it is essential to examine the functioning of platforms with digital advertising systems. These systems can potentially be utilized to identify users susceptible to harmful content like disinformation. Additionally, understanding how their live streaming systems operate is crucial to effectively filter out terrorist content. Mikova further emphasized the need to promptly address and mitigate such issues.
According to the regulations, the biggest platforms are required to recognize and evaluate potential systemic risks and determine if they are taking sufficient measures to minimize them. These evaluations of risks must be submitted by the end of August and will subsequently undergo an independent audit.