The EU Digital Services Act – The First Deadline Approaches
The EU Digital Services Act (DSA) that regulates online service content and more entered into force on November 16, 2022. Starting with February 17, 2023, very large online platforms (VLOP) or online search engines (VLOSE) have four months to fully comply.
The DSA came into force on November 16, 2022, seeking to foster a safer and more competitive digital space. Considering the growing threat of risks, a consequence of the digital transformation that allows consumers to conclude distance contracts with traders, the DSA is intended to be an important tool in making the internet a fairer place, dealing with the dissemination of illegal content, disinformation, and negative impact on fundamental rights.
“Very large” online platforms and search engines have four months to fully comply.
The main subjects for which the regulation establishes a series of new obligations are digital platforms essentially defined as hosting services, which store and disseminate information to the public. Such definition seems to focus, among others, on platforms such as social networks, online marketplaces or content-sharing platforms. The status of “large” applied to such platforms is set for entities which have, on the average, 45 million or more monthly active recipients of the service in the Union, and which are designated as such according to DSA.
Illegal content – the role of trusted flaggers
Among other changes envisaged by DSA, the act enables a process by which platforms are notified and must take subsequent action on any illegal content, as understood by law. In this sense an essential role is played by trusted flaggers, respectively entities awarded such status only if they meet specific conditions imposed by DSA. More precisely, platforms will have to remove illegal content after being notified by trusted flaggers, although no express term is imposed for such an action, only specifying their obligation to remove such content swiftly.
However, the imminent obligation for providers of online platforms imposed by DSA falls under transparency reporting obligations, i.e. an obligation to release information on their user numbers publicly. The EU act will apply to all providers that offer or conduct digital services in the EU, regardless of their place of establishment.
Compliance in Romania
In terms of applicability, considering that the envisaged legal act takes the form of a European regulation, it will be applied in Romania, as in the rest of the Member States, directly, without the need for any formalities of transposition into the national legislation.
Complying with the DSA will be a gradual process, which will start early this year and will bring new obligations for companies conducting business in the digital environment, especially new obligations spanning rules around transparency, advertising, risk assessments.
Nonetheless, such innovative rules aim at establishing standards to safeguarding online spaces, particularly by imposing a prompt notification mechanism which should draw attention to and discharge potential irregularities, under which concrete actions should be taken by online platforms.