EU regulation on digital services, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), is due to come into effect in ten days for 19 of the largest digital platforms.

Among the 19 are Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. Others such as Zalando, an online fashion retailer, have criticised the Commission for their inclusion on the list.

Published in October 2022, the law will apply to all online intermediaries and platforms from 17 February 2024.

The law was approved by the European Parliament in 2022 with 530 votes in favour, 78 against and 80 abstentions. Commissioner Thierry Breton, with his colleague Margrethe Vestager, are two major proponents of the law.

The law obliges digital platforms to remove illegal content (including hate speech) once they become aware of it. Article 13 of the DSA, meanwhile, forces platforms to remove counterfeiting companies.

Platforms must also explain how their algorithms and recommendation systems target their users.

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In the event of non-compliance, the EU can issue sanctions of up to 6% of a company’s annual turnover.

Companies’ responses vary

An ad hoc questionnaire by digital communications regulator Arcom found that platforms had not made sufficient efforts to combat hate speech online.

On X (formerly Twitter) Breton welcomed TikTok’s voluntary stress test for the DSA on 18 July. Though the commissioner has tweeted his disapproval of X leaving the EU’s voluntary Code of Practice against Disinformation in May:

“Twitter leaves EU voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation. But obligations remain. You can run but you can’t hide. Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be legal obligation under #DSA as of 25 August. Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”

In a now infamous 2022 tweet, Breton warned X CEO Elon Musk, “In Europe, the bird will fly by our rules. #DSA,” referring to the company’s former logo.