Skip links

The Digital Service Act in a Nutshell

Groundbreaking EU-regulation of misinformation, dark patterns and online ads has been finally adopted. Now it remains to be seen whether the act will be enforced properly.

The Digital Services Act, DSA, is targeted digital media’s societal and democratic harm. It comes after frustration of very slow antitrust enforcement.

In a nutshell, the DSA is about:

  • It will be illegal to target children with online advertising.
  • Sensitive personal data like sexual preference, political opinion, gender or religion must not be used in targeting of online ads for everybody. Europe is thus the first government in the world to effectively limit tracking ads.
  • Dark patterns – or manipulative behavioral design – will be illegal. It could be designed that manipulated us to click on certain content or buy something.
  • Platforms must prevent dangerous disinformation from going viral.
  • Platforms must be transparent about how they recommend content to its users.
  • They must avoid offering unsafe or illegal products.
  • They have to have enough staff to deal with content moderation.
  • Users have a right to complain in their own language.
  • Platforms will face yearly audits for ‘systemic risks’.

Big tech has lobbyied heavily against the act, which will will begin taking effect by next year and will end self-regulation on e.g. what content should be up or down. Breaching the act can mean heavy fines of up to 6% of global turnover and bans from operating in the economically lucrative Europe.

According to The New York Times an estimated 230 new workers will be hired to enforce the new laws in the EU. And as opposed to the GDPR, which is supposed to be enforced by national data protection agencies, this one will be enforced from Brussels by the EU Commission.

Find the details in the act here.

Update July 2022: Although the DSA is an imperfect document, it represents a potential paradigm shift in tech regulation. Even so, the great promise of the DSA will only be realised if its laws can be implemented and enforced in practice.

Picture collage of Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton, the main architects behind DSA.