New obligations for very large online platforms & search engines under DSA

On 25 August 2023, the provisions of the DSA (Digital Services Act) applying to VLOPs and VLOSEs entered into force. These platforms and search engines now face heavy fines in case of non-compliance with specific rules.

The DSA aims at addressing the issue of online harms at a large scale with targeted requirements for major online platforms and search engines. These requirements include:

  • Conducting an annual risk assessment to identify the impact of their services on fundamental rights and democracy.
  • Putting in place adapted mitigation measures, such as content moderation and age verification.
  • Establishing crisis response mechanisms.
  • Carrying out an annual independent compliance audit of their services.
  • Ensuring an option not based on profiling within their recommender systems.
  • Guaranteeing a stronger online advertising transparency and an access to relevant data to the Digital Services Coordinator and vetted researchers.
  • Designating a compliance officer.
  • Providing additional information regarding their content moderation in the public annual transparency report.
  • Paying an annual supervisory fee.

Challenges of implementation and next steps

The implementation of the DSA and this new regulatory framework mayface several challenges, such as the lack of qualified human resources, the lack of means for trusted flaggers, or the risk of “risk assessment washing”.

Furthermore, some legal uncertainty remains as secondary legislation is still expected.

The Commission is the competent authority for supervising the designated platforms and search engines, and will work in close cooperation with the Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs). EU Member States will need to empower DSCs by 17 February 2024, the general date of entry in application of the DSA.

The effects of the DSA on online safety in Europe are now under scrutiny.

For further information