The European Parliament has passed the Digital Services Act (DSA), a groundbreaking regulation that regulates internet platforms across the European Union.
The DSA is a promising step forward in respecting online rights. It introduces important measures to increase transparency by requiring platforms to explain to users how they moderate content, how automated tools are used and how many content moderators they use for each official EU language. The law also aims to subject large platforms to external scrutiny by providing access to data for researchers, including from non-governmental organizations, and by requiring annual third-party audits to assess compliance with the regulation.
The DSA should have significant impact on human rights both online and offline in the EU and potentially beyond, due to its potential to inspire legislation in other regions and set standards for companies to apply globally.
The new rules begin to address some of the more systemic damage caused by dominant platforms. They require platforms to assess and mitigate systemic risks, both actual and foreseeable, from some human rights violations arising from the design, algorithms, operation and use of their services in the EU. The DSA is also taking steps to curb some of the most invasive forms of surveillance-based advertising, which are at the heart of dominant platforms’ business models.
While the DSA has avoided some typical regulatory pitfalls, such as unrealistically short deadlines for platforms to remove potentially illegal content, it also falls short in a number of important ways.
As Human Rights Watch outlined, the DSA should have been more ambitious and put in place stronger safeguards to protect people’s rights by closing loopholes that may extend government censorship, adopting more directly the surveillance-based business model of dominant platforms, and adopting a more comprehensive approach to to use due diligence. The final text also contains some problematic loopholes, such as allowing the use of “trade secrets” to justify denying researchers access to data.
Despite these shortcomings, the DSA has the potential to better protect people’s rights, but only if enforcement is robust. In particular, the European Commission – which will be responsible for oversight, investigation, enforcement and monitoring of major online platforms, including the imposition of fines – will require significant resources and expertise.
Finally, as the DSA will require very large companies such as Meta and Google to be more transparent and provide remedies to EU users, the measures taken to comply with the new rules should be extended to people who rely on their platforms and services around the world. world.