After only 18 months of negotiations, the European Parliament and EU Member States finally reached an agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), a new set of rules that increases companies’ responsibility for the content that their users upload. The breakthrough was announced by the Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Competition and digital policy, Margrethe Vestager, on Twitter in the early hours of Saturday morning after a final marathon of negotiations. “We have an agreement on DSA: the Digital Services Act ensures that what is illegal offline is also online,” she wrote.
The DSA’s legislative framework, which was worked on for years by the Commission under the leadership of Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, aims to manage and regulate the major media companies within the EU’s borders and step up the fight against illegal and malicious content online, including disinformation.
The Commission considers the DSA as finally bring an end of the decades-long “wild west” in cyberspace, in which the tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google & Co. created their own rules. Some even consider it as the “digital basic law”.
The DSA agreement entails, among other things, rules that mean social media can be fined if they do not keep a close enough eye on content on their platforms. The biggest tech giants have a turnover of many billions every year. According to The Verge, Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, among others, had a turnover of 257 billion dollars in 2021. Similar to those introduced through the GDPR, violations of the DSA could lead to fines of up to six percent of a company’s global revenue. Repeated infringements may even lead to exclusion from operating within the EU’s borders.
The Danish MEP Christel Schaldemose, who was the chief negotiator for the European Parliament, called the DSA a “global golden standard.” According to her, the DSA is a huge deal, giving regulators significantly more control. “The rules that have applied have been from 2000, before Steve Jobs thought of iPhones and before Facebook was created. So there has been a need for us to update the rules and bring them into the 21st century. And we are doing that now,” she said of the agreement.
The next step on the agenda is a formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council. Once formally adopted, the DSA will then be applicable across the EU and is expected to enter into force as early as 2024. However, as for the main online platforms and search engines, the DSA will apply from an earlier date: 4 months after their designation by the European Commission.