The DSA affects the major social media and search engine companies, Source: Depositphotos

EU's Digital Services Act: A Capable Weapon Against Disinformation?

EU's Digital Services Act: A Capable Weapon Against Disinformation?

The rest of the world will be following closely how this legislative effort unfolds in Europe

On 25 August 2023, a significant milestone was reached in the European Union: the Digital Services Act (DSA) came into effect for very large online platforms and search engines (VLOPs and VLOSEs). This legislative endeavour marks a critical response to the pressing issue of disinformation in today's digital landscape.

Let's delve into what the DSA is, its relevance to disinformation, and its anticipated impact. 

What is the DSA?

The DSA aims to serve as a framework for dealing with illegal content. It is a comprehensive set of rules and regulations designed to safeguard the digital information ecosystem. It targets digital platforms, especially those with over 45 million EU users, with the aim of ensuring responsible and transparent online environments. 

As such, the core objective of the DSA is to counter disinformation effectively. It does this through several key measures:

  • Stringent fines: The DSA introduces substantial fines for violations, sending a strong message to digital giants that they must take responsibility for the content they host. This serves as a deterrent against the spread of disinformation;
  • Protecting young users: A notable feature of the DSA is its clear stance against targeted advertising that exploits children's profiles. This underscores the EU's commitment to shield young minds from harmful content;
  • Transparency and collaboration: The DSA mandates platforms to share data with independent researchers. This transparency encourages a deeper understanding of the digital ecosystem and aids in identifying and combating disinformation effectively. 

Impact and Challenges

As the DSA came into effect, digital platforms, including social media sites like TikTok, Meta (Facebook), and others, have made public statements on how they plan to comply with the new rules. TikTok, for example, introduced an additional reporting option for its European community to report illegal content, including hate speech and harassment.

While the DSA has been hailed as "landmark legislation," some critics point out that certain platforms displaying harmful content, such as Netflix and Airbnb, are not included on the list of 19 designated platforms. However, there is room for adjustments and additions in the future. 

EU officials have emphasized rigorous enforcement of the DSA, with online platforms facing the possibility of hefty fines or even bans for non-compliance. Civil society involvement in oversight, along with adequate resources at the national level, is essential for effective enforcement. 

Global Impact and EU Values

The DSA has garnered international attention, with other countries closely watching how the EU regulates online platforms. It exemplifies the EU's commitment to upholding values in the digital world and may influence similar regulations worldwide. 

As the DSA comes into effect, users in the EU can expect greater transparency regarding content moderation on digital platforms, as well as mechanisms for appealing decisions related to content moderation.

Designated VLOPs and VLOSEs, assuming they were notified on 25 April 2023, are required to comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA). This compliance encompasses several key aspects, including statements of reasons, appeals, out-of-court dispute resolution, explainability, and vetted researcher access (partly), as of 25 August 2023.

Looking ahead

VLOPs and VLOSEs must publish their first transparency reports (and every 6 months thereafter) starting on 25 October 2023. Additionally, the DSA will apply in its entirety, and the deadline for EU Member States to establish Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs) is set for 17 February 2024. DSCs will play a crucial role in overseeing and enforcing DSA compliance at the national level.

The EU's Digital Services Act represents a groundbreaking step towards responsible digital governance and the fight against disinformation. It sets a precedent for other regions and reinforces the importance of transparency, accountability, and user protection in the digital age.

This article is part of Read Twice – an EU-funded project, coordinated by Euro Advance Association that targets young people and aims to counter disinformation and fake news by enhancing their skills to assess critically information, identify vicious and harmful media content and distinguish between facts and opinions, thus improving their media literacy competences.

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union nor of TheMayor.EU.



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