Digital services: rules for an open and secure online space | News

On Tuesday, Parliament held the final vote on the new Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), following an agreement reached between Parliament and the Council on 23 April and 24 March respectively. Both texts aim to address the societal and economic impact of technology companies by setting clear standards for how they operate and provide services within the EU, in accordance with the fundamental rights and values ​​of Europeans.

The DSA was adopted with 539 votes in favor, 54 against and 30 abstentions and the DMA with 588 votes in favor, 11 against and 31 abstentions.

What is illegal offline should be illegal online

The DSA sets clear obligations for digital service providers, including social media or marketplaces, to combat the proliferation of illegal content, online disinformation and other societal risks. These requirements are proportionate to the size of the platforms and the risks they pose to society.

The new obligations include:

  • new measures to combat illegal content online as well as a commitment for platforms to respond quickly while respecting fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and data protection;
  • improved traceability and control of merchants in online marketplaces to guarantee the safety of products and services, in particular by stepping up efforts to carry out random checks if illegal content reappears;
  • increased platform transparency and accountability, through the provision of clear information on content moderation or the use of recommendation algorithms (also called content recommendation systems); users will be able to challenge content moderation decisions; and
  • the prohibition of misleading practices and certain types of targeted advertising, especially those intended for children or presenting sensitive content. “Tricked interfaces” and misleading practices aimed at influencing users’ choices will also be prohibited.

Very large online platforms and search engines (with more than 45 million monthly users), which pose the greatest risk, will have to comply with stricter commitments implemented by the Commission. These include in particular prevention of systemic risks (such as the proliferation of illegal content as well as the harmful effects on fundamental rights, on electoral processes, on gender-based violence and on mental health). Of independent audits can also be performed. In addition, platforms will have to give users the choice of whether or not to receive recommendations based on profiling. They must also enable authorities and approved researcherseasier access to their data and algorithms.

A list of obligations and prohibitions for access controllers

DMA imposes obligations on large online platforms that act as gatekeepers in digital markets to ensure a fairer environment and more services to consumers (who can hardly avoid these large platforms due to their dominant position online).

In order to prevent any unfair commercial practices, these access controllers must:

  • allow third parties to interact with their own services, smaller platforms will therefore be able to ask larger messaging services to allow their users to exchange messages and send voice messages or files on all messaging applications. Users will benefit from multiple choices and avoid the lock-in effect that forces them to use only one application or platform at a time; and
  • give user companies access to the generated data on the gatekeeper’s platform so that they can distribute their own offers and enter into contracts with consumers outside this platform.

Access controllers will no longer be able to:

  • improve the ranking of their own services or products at the expense of third parties on their platforms (self-favoritism);
  • prevent users from easily uninstalling preinstalled software or application or use third-party apps or app stores; and
  • process users’ personal information for the purpose of targeted advertisingunless they have expressly given their consent.


Punish

To ensure that the new DMA rules are properly implemented and adapted to the dynamic digital sector, the Commission may conduct market research. If an access controller does not comply with these rules, the Commission may impose fines of up to 10% of its total global turnover for the previous financial year or even 20% in the event of repeated infringements.

Quotes

Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK), rapporteur for the DSA, said: “For too long, tech giants have profited from the absence of rules. The digital world has become a wild west, with the strongest and biggest setting the rules. Now there is a sheriff in the city: DSA. From now on, the rules and rights will be strengthened. We are opening the black box of algorithms to investigate the slot machines that hide behind social platforms. “

Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE), rapporteur for the DMA, said: “The aim of the digital single market is for Europe to welcome the best companies, not just the biggest ones. That is why we need to focus on the implementation of this legislation. We “Only when we have a dialogue on an equal footing can we have the respect that the European Union deserves, and we owe that to our citizens and our businesses.”

Next step

Once adopted by the Council in July (DMA) and September (DSA), the texts will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will enter into force 20 days after their publication.

The DSA will be directly applicable throughout the EU for a period of 15 months from its entry into force or from 1 January 2024 (whichever is later). As regards the obligations laid down in this legislation for very large platforms and search engines, they will apply earlier, ie. four months from the date on which the Commission designates them as such.

The DMA will apply six months after its entry into force. Once categorized, gatekeepers will have a maximum of six months to comply with the new obligations.

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