The EU is prolific in releasing regulations guiding businesses in its region. According to a new piece of legislation, social media platforms may have to explain how their content display algorithm works.
The new legislation, known as the Digital Services Act, or DSA, will compel social media network operators to be more responsible for their users post. They now have to act fast by removing illegal content or goods quicker. They also have to let their users and researchers know how the algorithms that rank what users see work. Also, they must be more committed to preventing the spread of misinformation.
Failure to comply may attract fines of up to six percent of their yearly turnover.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today’s agreement on the Digital Services Act is historic, both in terms of speed and of substance. The DSA will upgrade the ground rules for all online services in the EU. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses. It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online. The greater the size, the greater the responsibilities of online platforms. Today’s agreement – complementing the political agreement on the Digital Markets Act last month – sends a strong signal: to all Europeans, to all EU businesses, and to our international counterparts.”
Meanwhile, DSA should not be confused with DMA or Digital Market Act, debated in March. While the two will affect tech companies doing business in Europe, the purpose of DMA is to enable smaller or new startups to compete with bigger and older companies and stand a fair chance. However, DSA focuses on how the companies regulate the content on their platforms. As things stand, the DSA will have greater, faster, and more direct effects on the consumers.
The new laws apply only to European citizens, but their effects will be felt globally. Due to the stringency, tech companies may find it easier to just use it as a baseline for the rest of the world instead of re-strategizing their operations to localize the laws. At any rate, American lawmakers are already paying attention to what the EU is doing, which means similar laws may come up across the pond.
DSA applies to companies, including internet access providers, domain name registrars, web hosting services providers, etc. Search engines with users numbering more than 10 percent of the 450 million consumers in the EU are also affected.
While the final wording has not been decided, DSA includes:
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 important role for the independent Digital Services Coordinators and Board for Digital Services.