Rule by rule, the European Union aims to shape the activity of digital giants. The full entry into force of the DSA (acronym for Digital Services Act) directly influences a category of companies called VLOPs (Very Large Online Platforms, i.e. ‘large online platforms’), those that have more than 45 million users within the borders of the Union. It is a limit that represents 10% of the population living in the EU.
The regulations are a turning point in the treatment of these giants. As the European Commission has stated, the regulation aims to eliminate the so-called behavior too big to care (too big to worry about, because of the users). The list of companies included in this VLOP category is made up of 13 American platforms: Amazon Store, App Store, Facebook, Google Maps, Google Play, Google Shopping, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter (now X), Wikipedia, YouTube . Added to these are two Chinese companies, AliExpress and TikTok, and two European companies, Booking and Zalando. The law also applies to two search engines, Bing and Google Search, called VLOSEs (Very Large Online Search Engines, that is, large online search engines).
It’s too early to tell what impact the DSA will have on users, but affected companies have already started making changes. Among the most prominent are the removal of illegal content and the fight against misinformation, both aspects promoted by the new legislation.
The lawyer specialized in technological law Sergio Carrasco, who has studied the new regulation, points out that the DSA forces companies to be proactive, although he adds that some already had advanced work: “Most platforms had greatly simplified their reporting mechanisms content. Many have been adapting, not so much due to regulatory obligation, but for their own interest”, he comments, referring to advertisers, the main source of income for many of these services, who do not want to see their advertising alongside illegal content or false news. .
But the regulations will have a full impact on other aspects that are part of the daily life of the millions of Europeans who use at least one of these platforms on a daily basis.
Goodbye to the imposition of feeds personalized
The screen where social network users access the content, the feed, it can no longer be just personalized. Platforms will have to give users the option to have a feed where only posts from the accounts they follow appear. Some have already deployed it, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, which offer a space with non-personalized messages ordered chronologically.
“Before they were like echo chambers because it was all personalized content,” says Carrasco. “On TikTok or on Instagram, the information that appears to you is not neutral because they seek the maximum possible attraction. Since they know the type of content you like, what they do is feed back the feed. And this can be an obstacle for the access of the users to the information, in general”.
In addition, the new law forces platforms to reveal how content is generated. feed personalized. The lawyer specialized in technological law emphasizes that this issue is not trivial: “What makes [la normativa] “It is creating the right to know exactly the reasons why the social network acts in a certain way.”
More responsible advertising
VLOPs may not use sensitive data, such as users’ ethnic origin, political opinions or sexual orientation, to segment advertising audiences. “There are social networks that have so much information that, even if you have not provided that type of sensitive data directly, it was extrapolated. The platforms could offer advertisers such deep segmentation that the ads were very specific to the specific person,” Carrasco points out.
Now this type of data will not be taken into account for ads. This is how this field is equalized with other sectors, where regulation prevents the light use of this type of information. In addition to this, platforms will need to properly highlight their ads and report who pays for them.
Protection of minors
The DSA has banned personalized advertisements aimed at minors. Try to create a less aggressive environment for advertising in this most vulnerable age group. It is expected that the companies will make a generic division of minors as an audience.
“The child will not see fewer ads, but it does seek to protect him. He will be watching a video and an ad will pop up, but it will be general advertising, not specific to this minor,” Carrasco clarifies. And with in-depth data processing and focused on an individual, the impact of advertising is always greater.
The European standard imposes greater transparency on these large platforms, and also on search engines. Regarding the latter, Javier Maestre, a lawyer specializing in new technologies, states that the DSA aims to provide greater transparency and objectivity to the results of searches made by users. And he adds a note of caution: “These search results will be offered using algorithmic systems, so we will have to wait and see how the platforms incorporate these forecasts into their algorithms and how the authorities will monitor compliance with the law.”
Maestre also recalls the need for the platforms to carry out evaluations, which they will present to the European Commission: “The regulations oblige the platforms to analyze the systemic risks they cause. And you will have to carry out an analysis to reduce these risks in relation to the aforementioned topics. [salud mental, proteccion de menores y violencia de genero], for which they must prepare a report on an annual basis.” These transparency mechanisms are expected to lead to greater control of the operations of these platforms.
A summary terms of service
Another novelty refers to the terms and conditions of digital services. These texts, usually long and of a legal density that scares away the general public, must have a summary prepared in simple language. “At this point the regulations are somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, the law requires reporting on an infinite number of issues, which makes the documents acquire a certain complexity and, on the other, it also indicates that the information must be brief and easy to read”, explains Maestre.
Although companies have begun to apply the legal aspects that are clear, Carrasco affirms that it is still too early to see the degree of real compliance with the standard. There has not been material time for claims to arise and challenge procedures to arrive. All this will give a more precise idea of the limits in the application of the DSA.
Meanwhile, and in case of doubt, the legislation has imposed a severe threat on platforms that do not comply with the new requirements. Failure to comply could result in penalties of up to 6% of the company’s global turnover. To put this in perspective, any of Google’s platforms could be fined almost $17 billion, any of Meta’s services up to $7 billion. And Amazon, with an annual turnover of about $514 billion, would face a penalty of almost $30 billion.
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Source: EL PAIS