Stay Informed: How the EU’s Digital Services Act Affects You

Telephone with social media apps open with coffee in the backround

Unveiling the EU's Digital Services Act and Its Impact on Tech Giants and Users Image: Shutterstock/ Vasin Lee

AS of August 25, the European Union (EU) has introduced a new era of digital regulation with the implementation of the Digital Services Act (DSA). This groundbreaking legislation marks a significant step forward in ensuring the safety and protection of users within the digital realm. Designed to establish guidelines for major tech companies operating in the EU, the DSA aims to moderate illegal content and safeguard the rights of individuals on online platforms.

The DSA’s Objectives

The EU’s Digital Services Act introduces a series of comprehensive rules targeting prominent online platforms. Users of platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and TikTok have likely encountered banners announcing updates to their ‘privacy policy’ as a result of the DSA’s implementation. This legislation seeks to empower tech giants like Facebook and Google to combat hate speech, illegal content, and other harmful activities on their platforms.

Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, emphasised the significance of the DSA in making the Internet safer for everyone. He stated that these influential platforms play a crucial role in daily life and that it was time for the EU to establish its own rules to ensure their responsible operation.

Targeted Platforms and Regulations

The DSA focuses on 19 ‘very large’ digital platforms, including social media giants Meta (formerly Facebook), X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok, as well as Google, Wikipedia, and e-commerce platforms like Alibaba’s AliExpress, Amazon, and Zalando. Additionally, app stores like Google Play and Apple AppStore, along with Google Maps, are included on the list.

These platforms, which collectively serve more than 45 million active users within the EU, were subjected to ‘stress tests’ by EU officials prior to the DSA’s implementation. The tests evaluated their plans to comply with the new regulations, address illegal content, and ensure user privacy and transparency.

TikTok and Meta have already released statements detailing their approach to adhering to the DSA’s guidelines. TikTok introduced an enhanced reporting system for users to report illegal content and unveiled a new advertising archive to promote transparency.

Reaction and Criticisms

Andrea Renda, a senior fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), hailed the DSA as ‘landmark legislation.’ The DSA represents a shift from the long-standing principle of limited responsibility for online intermediaries, signalling a commitment to a safer online environment.

However, critics have noted that certain platforms, such as Netflix, Airbnb, and Pornhub, are not currently included in the DSA’s scope despite hosting harmful content. There is a possibility for future additions to the list, as the EU strives to ensure online safety for users of all platforms.

Enforcement and Consequences

Non-compliance with the DSA’s requirements can result in significant penalties for online platforms. The European Commission has stated that such platforms may face substantial fines or even bans. To ensure rigorous enforcement, mechanisms for oversight, accountability, and transparency have been put in place.

Civil society is expected to play a role in overseeing implementation, backed by independent agencies with adequate resources at the national level. This multi-faceted approach aims to balance stringent enforcement with the protection of fundamental rights.

Global Impact and Future Considerations

The DSA’s introduction places the EU at the forefront of digital regulation, attracting interest from other countries, including the US, Brazil, and Japan. Its influence extends beyond tech companies, as it also has the potential to shape foreign policy and broader international standards, particularly in areas like human rights and democracy. While the DSA represents a landmark in digital regulation, its effectiveness will be evaluated over time.

But What Does This Mean for You?

In response to the EU’s Digital Services Act, major tech players are taking decisive actions to align with the legislation’s objectives and provide users with enhanced transparency and control. Google, beyond facilitating the appeal of video removals and restrictions for YouTube creators, also plans to amplify its Ads Transparency Centre. Moreover, the company is set to bolster data accessibility for researchers, shedding light on the inner workings of services like Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play, and Shopping.

See Google’s full announcement here 

Meta, as the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is channelling its energies into creating more transparency and empowering users. An expansion of its Ad Library, which compiles ads displayed on its platforms, is underway. A substantial stride toward algorithmic transparency is evident through Meta’s decision to offer European users the option to view content chronologically. By liberating users from personalised content delivery, Meta seeks to offer a more tailored and transparent experience.

See Meta’s announcement here

TikTok plans to follow a similar model. The company’s announcement that it will make its algorithm optional for EU users marks a significant shift. The resulting content experience will include both local and global content, creating a well-rounded engagement. Additionally, TikTok’s initiative to display content chronologically on Following and Friends feeds signifies its dedication to user preferences. With changes in its advertising policies, particularly for European users aged 13 to 17, TikTok aims to create a safer and more considerate digital space.

See TikTok’s full announcement here

Snapchat, too, is steering its approach toward greater user-focused interaction. The company’s offer of an opt-out option for personalised feeds on Discover and Spotlight pages grants users more agency in shaping their content consumption. By publishing reports on post rankings within these feeds, Snapchat emphasises transparency in content curation. The commitment to providing users with insights into post-removals and the tools to appeal such decisions reinforces a sense of fairness. Furthermore, Snapchat’s decision to discontinue personalised ads for users aged 13 to 17 highlights a more conscientious approach to advertising practices.

See Snapchat’s full announcement here

As these tech giants respond to the EU’s Digital Services Act, they collectively pave the way for a more transparent, user-centred, and accountable digital landscape. The measures they are adopting highlight their commitment to creating a safer, more informed, and personalised digital experience for users within the EU.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!