May 13, 2022

Digital Service Act: What will change?

️ Blog
17 min. reading time

As a digital marketer, we understand that you do not follow new legislation closely, however, an interesting political agreement was concluded last March, 2022. For example, the European Commission has approved the Digital Service Act, a legislation that will tighten up online rules. This legislation has not been tightened up for 20 years and therefore literally no longer of this time. The regulations are in line with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will also be briefly discussed in this article. These laws together form a set of new online rules. The new rules will apply across the EU to create a safer and more open digital world. The DSA will be put into operation from 2023, so it is interesting to delve into this as a digital marketer now!


What is the Digital Service Act in brief? + the DMA

Trends and innovationThe act has two main purposes. First of all, it is important to create a safe online environment for users. The fundamental rights of all users of digital services must be better protected, just as they are protected in the physical world. Think of better protection of the freedom of expression and users. A number of topics are central to the Digital Service Act:

  • Dark pattern and invisible algorithms
  • Fake news: spreading disinformation of topics related to politics or health.
  • Illegal and harmful content: cyber violence, copyright infringement and hate speech. 
  • Illegal online trade of goods and services 

In addition, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) should prevent online monopolies so that small players also get a fair chance on the market. The legislation is mainly focused on large and medium-sized companies. For large corporates, think of companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.   


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For whom is this new regulation important?

The new rules of the DSA have been drawn up asymmetrically. Small to medium businesses have obligations commensurate with their size, capabilities and impact on the digital world. Major online platforms reaching more than 10% of the EU population monthly are considered systemic. Since they have a significant social impact, they will be subject to specific and stricter rules. 

The Digital Services Act targets intermediary services such as: 

  • Brokering services: internet service providers, domain name registrations. 
  • hosting services: cloud and web hosting services.
  • online platforms where sellers and consumers come together: online marketplaces, sharing economy platforms, app stores, and social media platforms. 
  • Very large online platforms – corporates 



Advertising onlineWhat will concretely change as a result of the new regulations?

1. Making online advertisements and algorithms more transparent

You've probably experienced it. When you search online for new sneakers, let's say Nike sneakers, you see advertisements about those same shoes on every website. 

All online interactions you perform such as clicks, search history, online surveys and quizzes are remembered. This data helps to build your personal profile. Companies can then buy this data to target you with their ads. 

The DSA wants to ban this 'surveillance advertising'. The European Parliament officially supports the ban on online surveillance of minors for advertising purposes and the use of sensitive data. In addition, there must be more transparency around advertising use. Platforms need to better inform users about the settings they use to target people. There should also be more clarity about how users can easily change these settings.


2. Stopping manipulation by 'dark patterns'

You want to download an app but it asks you to first accept the terms and conditions, however these conditions are so long that you can hardly get through. Or you visit a website where you cannot find the button to disable cookies. These are both two good examples of dark patterns. We have already become accustomed to the fact that the internet often manipulates us, but this is of course not normal. 

The DSA will counter the use of dark patterns with a set of new rules. These new rules should prevent, among other things, the following practices:

  • Visualize certain buttons or settings more clearly than others. Think of accepting or refusing cookies where the last option is displayed smaller. 
  • Ask a user repeatedly for permission to certain settings. 
  • Encouraging a user to change certain settings.
  • Making it extra difficult to cancel services.
  • Repeatedly asking a user for consent when an objection has already been made through an automated tool.



3. More control over what content is recommended to users

Major social media networks use automated algorithms to show content or products to users. Think, for example, of 'groups you should join' on Facebook or your timeline on Instagram when it was suddenly no longer presented in chronological order. These algorithms are often set up in such a way that they allow content to provoke a reaction because they are experienced as extreme, striking or shocking. These algorithms encourage the going viral of negative content such as hate speech and fake news. 

The DSA should make the use of these algorithms more transparent. In addition, major online platforms should offer users the choice to change these recommendation systems. Think of Instagram, for example, which has reduced the choice to organize your feed chronologically again. 


4. Hate speech and illegal content must be better reported

Currently, there is no place or system where you can report hate speech or illegal content online. 

When the Digital Service Act is enacted, it should become the standard to report illegal content mentioning important details and the online location of the event. In addition, you will be asked to provide proof where this is possible. Major online platforms are also given the responsibility to respond quickly to such allegations. 


5. It must become safer to buy products online

Ordering products online is booming, so better security around these products is of great importance. An electrical device that suddenly explodes is of course not the intention and should be better controlled. Online marketplaces need to set stricter rules for merchants who want to sign up on their platform. It is currently possible to create an account with fake company information. 

The Digital Service act will introduce the 'Know Your Business Customer', making it easier for online marketplaces to identify the sellers. 

online safety

We briefly discussed the biggest changes brought about by the new Digital Service Act. Do you want to stay informed of all the latest 'digital' news? Check the inspiration on our blog!

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