Brussels Unveils First Set Of Designated Large Online Platforms

April 27, 2023
The European Commission has adopted its first designations under the Digital Services Act (DSA), targeting 17 very large online platforms (VLOPs) and two very large online search engines (VLOSEs).

The European Commission has adopted its first designations under the Digital Services Act (DSA), targeting 17 very large online platforms (VLOPs) and two very large online search engines (VLOSEs).

The EU’s attempts to rein in big tech have been taken up a notch as the DSA’s influence begins to take hold.

The Commission has now designated those that will be in scope of the DSA and its compliance requirements.

These platforms include Alibaba Aliexpress, Amazon, Google subsidiaries and Apple’s App Store.

Following their designation, the companies will now have to comply with the full set of new obligations under the DSA, within four months.

“Today is the D(SA)-Day for digital regulation,” said the EU’s internal market chief, Thierry Breton.

The former Worldline chair continued that the countdown is starting for 19 very large online platforms and search engines to fully comply with the special obligations that the DSA imposes.

Once this deadline is reached, the designated platforms and search engines will need to adapt their systems, resources and processes for compliance, set up an independent system of compliance and carry out and report their first annual risk assessment to the Commission.

These are aimed at empowering and protecting users online, including minors, by requiring the designated services to assess and mitigate their systemic risks and to provide robust content moderation tools.

These include giving users clear information on why they are being recommended certain information. Consumers here will have the right to opt out from recommendation systems based on profiling.

Platforms will also need to label all advertisements and inform users on who is promoting them, as well as provide an easily understandable, plain-language summary of their terms and conditions, in the languages of the member states where they operate.

Platforms, meanwhile, need to ensure that their risk assessments and compliance with all the DSA obligations are externally and independently audited. Platforms will also need to publish transparency reports on content moderation decisions and risk management.

“The Digital Services Act will bring about meaningful transparency and accountability of platforms and search engines and give consumers more control over their online life,” said the EU’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager.

“The designations made are a huge step forward to making that happen.”

The announcement stems from a proposal first made in December 2020.

The DSA complements the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which was proposed at the same time.

Following the political agreement reached by the EU co-legislators one year ago, in April 2022, the DSA entered into force on November 16.

The DMA, meanwhile, is set to become applicable as of next month. The DMA establishes a set of narrowly defined objective criteria for qualifying a large online platform as a so-called “gatekeeper”.

Included in the DMA is a recital that states: “The gatekeeper shall not require end users to use, or business users to use, to offer, or to interoperate with, an identification service, a web browser engine or a payment service, or technical services that support the provision of payment services, such as payment systems for in-app purchases, of that gatekeeper in the context of services provided by the business users using that gatekeeper’s core platform services.”

Within two months of its applicability, companies providing core platform services will have to notify the Commission and provide all relevant information.

The Commission will then have two months to adopt a decision designating a specific gatekeeper. The designated gatekeepers will have a maximum of six months after the Commission's decision to ensure compliance with the obligations foreseen in the DMA.

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