Two major EU pieces of legislation are about to change the digital landscape. Find out what the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act are all about.
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The power of digital platforms
Over the last two decades, digital platforms have become an integral part of our lives – it’s hard to imagine doing anything online without Amazon, Google or Facebook.
While the benefits of this transformation are evident, the dominant position gained by some of these platforms gives them significant advantages over competitors, but also undue influence over democracy, fundamental rights, societies and the economy. They often determine future innovations or consumer choice and serve as so-called gatekeepers between businesses and internet users.
To address this imbalance, the EU is working on upgrading the current rules governing digital services by introducing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will create a single set of rules applicable across the EU.
Regulating big tech practices: Digital Markets Act
The purpose of the Digital Markets Act is to ensure a level playing field for all digital companies, regardless of their size. The regulation will lay down clear rules for big platforms – a list of “dos” and “don’ts” – which aim to stop them from imposing unfair conditions on businesses and consumers. Such practices include ranking services and products offered by the gatekeeper itself higher than similar services or products offered by third parties on the gatekeeper’s platform or not giving users the possibility of uninstalling any preinstalled software or app.
Interoperability between messaging platforms will improve – users of small or big platforms will be able to exchange messages, send files or make video calls across messaging apps.
The rules should boost innovation, growth and competitiveness and will help smaller companies and start-ups compete with very large players.
The Digital Markets Act will also set out the criteria for identifying large online platforms as gatekeepers and will give the European Commission the power to carry out market investigations, allowing for updating the obligations for gatekeepers when necessary and sanctioning bad behaviour.
Safer digital space: Digital Services Act
The Digital Services Act will give people more control over what they see online: users will have better information over why specific content is recommended to them and will be able to choose an option that does not include profiling. Targeted advertising will be banned for minors and the use of sensitive data, such as sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity, won’t be allowed.
The new rules will also help protect users from harmful and illegal content. They will significantly improve the removal of illegal content, making sure it is done as fast as possible. It will also help tackle harmful content, which, like political or health-related disinformation, doesn’t have to be illegal, and introduce better rules for the protection of freedom of speech.
The Digital Services Act will also contain rules making sure that products sold online are safe and follow the highest standards set in the EU. Users will have better knowledge of the real sellers of products that they buy online.
On 24 March, Parliament and Council negotiators reached a preliminary agreement on the Digital Markets Act. A preliminary agreement on the Digital Services Act was reached on 23 April. Both now need to be formally approved by Parliament and the Council.