New obligations for digital operators - the goal is safer and more open online services
Internet platforms and other digital services will have new obligations when the application of the EU's Digital Services Act begins on 17 February 2024. The purpose of the new Act is to reduce illegal content and increase the transparency of services.
The Digital Services Act contains extensive new obligations for various network operators, from cloud services to social media platforms and various marketplaces. Different service providers have different levels of obligations. Some of the obligations apply to a wide variety of services - for example, users must be offered the opportunity to report illegal content.
“If you as a user come across content online that you suspect is illegal, you always have the right to report it to the service provider. It has an obligation to deal with the matter. The same applies to situations where, for example, the platform has removed the content you have produced or restricted the use of the service without notification and justification”, says Chief Specialist Sirpa Sillstén from the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.
So what is illegal content? In the supervision of the Digital Services Act, it is not possible to take a direct position on this, but the procedures of the service providers are the subject of supervision. However, as a rule of thumb, everything that is illegal offline is also illegal online.
The strictest regulations for online platforms and online marketplaces
Online platforms, i.e. for example different online communities, have their own obligations in the regulation. In the future, platforms must, for example, react to clearly illegal content on their own initiative and handle complaints carefully.
Online platforms are also required to take new actions that improve the transparency of advertising and recommendation systems, as well as the protection of minors online. The Digital Services Act requires that online platforms do not mislead the consumer and manipulate their decision-making and choices. Service providers must note that alongside the Digital Services Act, the Consumer Protection Act and Data Protection Act must be observed.
Online platforms also include online marketplaces, such as travel and hotel booking websites, which have their own additional obligations. For example, marketplaces must ensure that sellers and service providers operating on the platforms can offer consumers sufficient information about themselves and their products. If a product or service has been sold through the marketplace that has proven to be illegal, the marketplace must inform the consumers, who bought the product or service, about it.
The requirements of the Digital Services Act also apply to very large online platforms and search engines with more than 45 million monthly users in the EU. For these multinational platform giants, the regulation entered into force already in the summer of 2023, and their main supervisor is the EU Commission.
In Finland, supervision is divided between three authorities
In Finland, observing the Digital Services Act is supervised mainly by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom. Additionally, Consumer Ombudsman and Data Protection Ombudsman supervise specific obligations of the Act that are connected to, for example, the advertising carried out by platforms.
The Digital Services Act applies to all intermediary services that are offered within the EU. Thus, service providers that are located elsewhere must also observe the Act, if they offer their services to the EU area. However, the Act does not apply to micro and small businesses in all aspects.