What does the new Digital Services Act regulate?
The Digital Services Act (DSA) is a European Union law designed to update and unify the rules governing digital services, particularly online platforms. What sounds harmless and like a service to the people of the EU turns out, on closer inspection, to be an attempt by Brussels bureaucrats to restrict and channel open discourse on the Internet.
What digital services does the law affect?
Digital services are all services offered via the Internet. These include online stores, social networks, search engines, cloud services and online intermediary platforms. Digital services have many benefits for consumers and businesses, providing access to information, communication and entertainment. They include online platforms such as Google, Facebook and X (Twitter), intermediary platforms such as Internet access providers, domain registrars and online marketplaces, as well as hosting services that store information. As early as August 25, 2023, special regulations came into effect for large online services with more than 45 million monthly users.
What does the Digital Services Act change for companies?
The DSA sets out a number of obligations for digital service providers, which vary depending on the type of service. The most important obligations are:
- Exclusion of liability for intermediary services and hosting services for illegal content or goods provided by users as long as they have no knowledge of it or remove it quickly as soon as they learn about it (so-called notice-and-action procedure).
- Accountability to users and authorities for measures taken to comply with the DSA and to combat illegal content or goods, as well as systemic risks such as disinformation or manipulation.
- Transparency about the functioning of their services, in particular their moderation practices, their advertising policies and their algorithms for sorting or recommending content or goods.
- Cooperation with other digital service providers, national supervisory authorities and a new European coordination body to promote a common approach and exchange of information.
The restriction of public discourse by the EU commissioners is picking up speed with the DSA. The EU bureaucrats have targeted "hate speech" and "disinformation", which are to be restricted by regulation by law. What is meant by "hate" and "disinformation" is, of course, decided in Brussels. It is an attempt to banish unwelcome opinions from the public discourse and to outsource responsibility to providers of digital services.
Threat of severe penalties
Companies that fail to meet their legal obligation to ban "hate speech" and "disinformation" or do so inadequately face severe penalties. Up to 6 percent of the annual turnover will be due as a penalty. Taking X (Twitter) as an example, it becomes clear what magnitude we are talking about. Elon Musk's platform generated revenues of $4.4 billion in 2022. 6 percent of that would be $264 million. Since X is already struggling with declining advertising revenues, which has a negative impact on profits, a penalty payment of this magnitude would be a bitter setback for the company. Musk made no friends with the EU back in May 2023, when he left the "voluntary" EU agreement on the dissemination of false information. In 2022, the founder of Tesla described himself as an "absolutist of free speech".
Conclusion: The Digital Services Act is being touted by the EU as an important step toward creating a unified and fair digital single market that takes into account both the interests of digital service providers and the rights of users. Critics define the new law as a censorship law that allows state and supranational bodies to rule over the sovereignty of discourse on the EU Internet.