The new EU Digital Services Act will become applicable to all platforms from 17 February 2024

Insights|February 13, 2024

The EU Digital Services Act (DSA) aims to modernize the regulatory framework for digital services within the European Union. It addresses issues of online intermediary service providers’ responsibilities, content moderation, user rights, and competition in the digital space. By setting out rules for online intermediaries and platforms, the DSA seeks to enhance user safety, foster fair competition, and uphold fundamental rights in the digital realm.

As promised in our article on the European Union’s Digital Decade Strategy (available here), we will provide a series of Roschier Insights Articles on the coming avalanche of EU legislation regulating digitalization and data. In this article, we provide a brief recap of the DSA. For a more detailed review in terms of the due diligence obligations under the DSA, please see the Roschier insights article on the new rules for online intermediary services.

The main elements of the DSA

The DSA stands as a pivotal component of the EU’s Digital Decade Strategy, as it has been crafted to tackle the challenges posed by the rapid expansion of major intermediary services and the proliferation of illicit content through such platforms. Therefore, the DSA introduces a new set of guidelines for online intermediaries and online platforms. Its primary aim is to strike a balance between fostering innovation and safeguarding users’ fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, within the digital realm.

The due diligence requirements outlined in the DSA encompass various aspects, including the design of intermediary services in terms of user interface, advertising, content moderation practices, and the disclosure of information to users, the European Commission, and national authorities to uphold transparency standards. Compliance with these due diligence obligations varies depending on the scale and technical functionalities of the intermediary service.

Consequently, the due diligence obligations outlined in the DSA follow a comprehensive four-tiered approach. The initial level of due diligence obligations applies to all intermediary services, regardless of whether they function as internet access providers or among the largest technology enterprises.

Lastly, the implementation of the DSA in Finland requires the enactment of new legislation, such as the Online Intermediary Services Supervision Act (18/2024, as amended). Further, several other statutes will be supplemented to ensure they are in accordance with the provisions of the DSA. Such legislative changes are essential to effectively integrate the provisions and requirements outlined in the DSA with the Finnish legal framework.

Timeline and enforcement

Starting from 17 February 2024, the DSA rules will be applicable to all platforms. However, since the end of August 2023, these rules have been in effect for designated platforms with over 45 million users in the EU. These platforms are referred to as Very Large Online Platforms or Very Large Online Search Engines.

The enforcement of the DSA will be a collaborative effort between the European Commission and national authorities, with the latter overseeing platform compliance within their respective territories. The Finnish Transportation and Communications Agency (Traficom) will be the digital services coordinator in Finland, and thus, the primary enforcer of the digital services legislation. The Commission will primarily oversee the monitoring and enforcement of additional obligations imposed on Very Large Online Platforms or Very Large Online Search Engines.

As the new set of rules outlined in the DSA will soon become applicable, all online intermediaries and platforms operating within the EU should ensure that they align their practices with the rules in the DSA as soon as possible in order to avoid sanctions, such as fines or periodic penalty payments.