The virtual space of the online platforms will be turned upside down by the Digital Services Act (DSA). Once the law is fully rolled out, by the beginning of 2024, social networks will never be the same as before. The basic principle is: what is illegal offline must also be illegal online. Internet giants such as Meta will also have to allow inspection of the algorithms that determine which messages a user sees from Facebook or Instagram. Socal bots and click farms are stopped. It is impossible to be exhaustive in this review. The text is 310 pages. Lawyers, human rights and other civil society organizations should study the law for themselves.What’s in it? Lets have a closer look.
Preface and some definitions
Since 15 June 2022, the full text of the Digital Services Act, DSA, is available on the EP website as ‘Text of the provisional agreement on the digital services act’, with a download link. The primary aim of the DSA is establishing harmonisation for the regulation of digital services across Europe; as an EU Regulation and not a Directive, it is directly applicable in every member state. The DSA requires an enforcement regime that operates seamlessly to ensure equal application of the regulation throughout the Union.
The preamble is numbered by paragraph up to number (106a). Then the 74 numbered articles of the law are displayed. I limit myself to rules for social networks that are important to the users and also only deal with matters that are applicable in Belgium, because if a seat of one of the major platforms is located in a country of the EU, such as in Ireland and Luxembourg , it gets very complicated. You will find an elaborate series, where also the global impact on online platform governance enforcement is treated, on the website of the Center for Democracy and Technology: first, second and third.
The term “social networks” (Meta… and Tik Tok) or “internet platforms” (Apple App Store, Amazon… and Google) is used in the preamble as we use it in everyday language. In the legal texts, the term ‘intermediary services’ is often used as a container for both. So I will also sometimes use that term, when the law applies to both. VLOP, stands for ‘Very Large Online Platforms’, VLOSE, stands for ‘Very Large Online Search Engines’. This means in both cases, with more than 45 million users (see also article 25).
The definition of “illegal content” is as follows:
“In particular, that concept should be understood to refer to information, irrespective of its form, that under the applicable law is either itself illegal, such as illegal hate speech or terrorist content and unlawful discriminatory content, or that the applicable rules make illegal in view of the fact that it relates to activities that are illegal. Illustrative examples include the sharing of images depicting child sexual abuse, unlawful non-consensual sharing of private images, online stalking, the sale of noncompliant or counterfeit products, the sale of products or the provision of services in infringement of consumer protection law, the non-authorised use of copyright protected material, the illegal offer of accommodation services or illegal sale of live animals.” (paragraph 12)Continue reading