European Union’s Groundbreaking Digital Services Act (DSA) Takes Effect: Tech giants like Google, Facebook, and TikTok are grappling with the implications of the EU’s far-reaching initiative to sanitize online experiences.
LONDON (AP) — The commencement of the first phase of the European Union’s groundbreaking Digital Services Act (DSA) this week heralds an era of extensive regulations for tech giants like Google, Facebook, and TikTok that operate within Europe. As part of a suite of tech-focused regulations devised by the 27-nation bloc, the DSA aims to address the proliferation of harmful content online and safeguard users, solidifying the EU’s reputation as a global pioneer in reining in tech behemoths.
The DSA, which mandates adherence beginning this Friday for the largest platforms, endeavors to foster online safety, curbing the dissemination of illegal or terms-of-service-violating content, such as content promoting anorexia or genocide. Moreover, it seeks to uphold fundamental rights such as privacy and freedom of speech for European citizens.
WHICH PLATFORMS ARE AFFECTED?
Nineteen platforms are currently affected, including prominent social media entities such as Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
The list also encompasses five online marketplaces: Amazon, Booking.com, China’s Alibaba AliExpress, and Germany’s Zalando.
Mobile app stores Google Play and Apple’s App Store, along with Google’s Search and Microsoft’s Bing search engine, fall within the ambit of the DSA. Google Maps and Wikipedia complete the roster.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER ONLINE COMPANIES?
The selection of companies for the EU’s list is predicated on user figures submitted by these platforms. Entities with a user base of 45 million or more, constituting 10% of the EU’s population, will be subject to the highest level of DSA regulations.
However, insiders in Brussels have highlighted conspicuous omissions from the EU’s list, such as eBay, Airbnb and Netflix. Notably, this list remains open to adjustments, implying the potential addition of more platforms in the future. Ultimately, any enterprise providing digital services to European users will eventually need to align with the DSA’s requirements. Smaller entities will face fewer obligations than their larger counterparts and have a grace period of six months before full compliance is mandated.
Citing uncertainties surrounding the new regulations, Meta Platforms has refrained from launching Threads, its Twitter rival, within the EU.
WHAT’S UNDERGOING CHANGE?
Platforms have initiated the rollout of new mechanisms that empower European users to flag illicit online content and questionable products, with companies being obligated to swiftly and impartially remove such content. Amazon has introduced a new channel for reporting suspected illegal products and is furnishing users with more information about third-party merchants.
TikTok has granted users an “additional reporting option” for content, including advertising, believed to be unlawful. This includes categories such as hate speech, harassment, suicide and self-harm, and misinformation or scams, enabling users to precisely identify problematic content. Subsequently, a “new dedicated team of moderators and legal specialists” will ascertain whether flagged content violates the platform’s policies or transgresses legal norms, leading to its removal. TikTok has committed to explaining the rationale behind takedowns to both content creators and flaggers, with provisions for appeal.
Additionally, TikTok users can opt out of systems that recommend videos based on their previous views, given that such algorithms have been linked to the propagation of extremist content. In case of deactivation, TikTok’s feed will propose videos to European users based on local and global popularity.
The DSA explicitly prohibits targeting vulnerable demographic segments, including minors, with advertisements. Snapchat has announced that advertisers will be precluded from utilizing personalization and optimization tools for teen audiences in the EU and U.K. Furthermore, users aged 18 and above will have enhanced control and transparency over the ads they encounter, including detailed insights into the reasons behind ad placements. TikTok has introduced similar measures, discontinuing personalized ads for users aged 13 to 17 based on their TikTok activities or off-platform behavior.
IS THERE ANY RESISTANCE?
Zalando, a German online fashion retailer, has mounted a legal challenge to its inclusion on the list of the largest online platforms under the DSA, contending that such categorization is unjust.
Notwithstanding, Zalando is taking steps to implement content flagging systems for its website, despite the minimal likelihood of illicit content emerging in its curated collection of clothing and accessories.
The company has expressed support for the DSA, with Aurelie Caulier, Zalando’s head of public affairs for the EU, asserting that it will bring about positive changes for consumers. However, she highlights that Zalando does not pose systemic risks comparable to those of other platforms, thus challenging its categorization.
Amazon has also lodged a similar case with a prominent EU court.
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