EU Parliament Approves Digital Service Act Targeting Big Tech

EU Big Tech

The European Parliament approved on Thursday (Jan. 20), with 530 votes in favor, 78 against and 80 abstentions, the Digital Service Act (DSA). This bill will change the rules for handling illegal or potentially harmful content online, the liability of online providers for third party content and vetting obligations of third-party suppliers. 

“We are now democratically reclaiming our online environment. The DSA is bringing EU tech regulation into the 21st century, and it is about time. Intermediary services shape our lives — from the way we meet our significant other, where we buy our Christmas presents to how we read the news,” said Christel Schaldemose, a member of the European Parliament and rapporteur of this regulation. 

This regulation is relevant not only for all digital service providers (social media, online marketplaces, etc.) but also for their business users and customers. The obligations are stronger for big tech companies. 

The Digital Service Act aims to create an EU-wide legal framework for tackling illegal or potentially harmful content online, as the only applicable laws now are at the national level in each country. The main provisions of the DSA include: 

  • New transparency obligations for online platforms relating to the measures taken to combat illegal information,
  • stringent obligations for the biggest online platforms,
  • recipients of services would have the right to seek compensation for damages, and
  • mandatory risk assessment and more transparency over “recommender systems” to fight harmful content and disinformation. 

In summary, this bill aims to make companies responsible for the content they publish on their platforms, and to include better content moderation practices. While all the Big Tech firms will be impacted by this regulation, Meta, Twitter, TikTok and other social media platforms are likely to be particularly under pressure to comply with this regulation. 

“The online environment’s growing influence in our lives is not only for the better: algorithms challenge our democracies by disseminating hatred and division, tech giants challenge our level playing field, and online marketplaces challenge our consumer protection standards and product safety. This has to stop. For this reason, we are building a new framework, so that what is illegal offline is also illegal online,” noted Schaldemose. 

While the EU Parliament has approved the proposed regulation, the legislative procedure is not over yet, but a reversal or a halt isn’t likely. This approval enables the Parliament to start negotiations with EU countries, who have to formally approve the regulation. These negotiations could start in the first half of 2022. 

See also: EU Competition Chief Urges Final Push To Pass Big Tech Rules 

The DSA is one of the two proposed regulations aimed at taming the Big Tech dominance. The second proposal, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), was approved by the EU Parliament in December 2021 with a vast majority of votes, 642 in favor, 8 against and 46 abstentions. The parliament is set to start negotiations with EU member states in early 2022. 

The DMA essentially blacklists certain practices used by large platforms acting as “gatekeepers” and enables the EU to carry out market investigations and sanction non-compliant behaviors.

This bill includes most of the conducts that the EU has considered anticompetitive in the past after investigating Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. The DMA applies to most “core platform services” that are most prone to unfair business practices, including online intermediation services, social networks, search engines, operating systems, online advertising services, cloud computing and video-sharing services. 

The approval of the DSA in Europe on Thursday (Jan. 20) occurred the same day that the Judiciary Committee on the Senate is debating two bills that seek to reduce Big tech companies’ dominance and introduce more competition in the market. 

Read more: European Parliament Agenda for 2022 Includes Regulating Online Platforms, Artificial Intelligence and Crypto Assets