What is the Digital Services Law and how does it affect us?

The EU is one step closer to implementing the so-called Digital Services Law, a piece of legislation that will mark a milestone in the way Internet giants are regulated and will provide greater security to users.

On Thursday, the European Parliament approved its position to start negotiations with member states and the European Commission, which will seek to iron out the details before it becomes law.

Big tech companies have campaigned long and hard to make the proposal nicer to them, but what exactly is it and how will it work?

What are digital services?

Digital services play an important role in our lives: we use websites, social networks, e-books, cloud storage, music and video broadcasts. All these actions are defined as digital services.

What is the Digital Services Law?

In December 2020, the European Commission proposed a new legislative framework to tackle challenges such as the sale of fake products, the spread of hate speech, cyber threats, the limitation of competition and market dominance. The basic idea behind the proposal is thator is illegal in the real world, it should also be illegal in the online world. Once adopted, its goal will be to create a safer online world. It will basically modernize the EU e-commerce directive.

What will the Digital Services Law do?

The DSA will allow users to have a say in what they see online. For example, it will regulate personalized ads and force platforms to delete harmful and illegal content. Specifically, it will focus on hate speech, disinformation and counterfeit products sold online. Platforms will face sanctions if they fail to act.

Which providers will be affected by the Digital Services Law?

The new law will affect online platforms and intermediaries used by millions of Europeans every day. They include social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, app stores, video and music sharing platforms like YouTube and Spotify, online travel sites like Airbnb, and other digital marketplaces. Special attention will be paid to the large online platforms (with more than 45 million active users per month). The law will also apply to companies based outside the EU if they provide services in the single market.

How will businesses be affected?

Legislators hope that the law will ensure a level playing field in the market and allow small and medium-sized companies to have their space in the market. It is also expected that, as has already happened with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, for its acronym in English), the new law will set a global standard for digital services and that third countries will adopt similar regulations.

How will it affect citizens?

Users will be able to point out illegal content, and the platform will be obliged to notify them of any decision. A system of trust indicators will also be established for entities with specific experience in a particular area. There will be specific rules for the big online platforms, where users will be able to avoid personalized content. Platforms will bear more responsibility for misinformation. It will also allow users to contact social media companies in case their accounts are blocked, for example.

And the next steps?

Once the European Parliament’s negotiating position on the text has been established, talks will begin with both the Council of the European Union (which represents the countries) and the Commission. France, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, wants to close the file before its term ends in July, but many experts believe that is highly unlikely. Once the talks are concluded and a final agreement between the institutions is reached, the text will return to the European Parliament. There, MEPs must vote on a final version, after which, and if approved, the legislation must be applied in the member states before becoming law.