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What is the DSA: how the EU Digital Services Act will affect online advertising

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Last January, the European Parliament took a step forward towards approving the new Digital Services Law (DSA for its acronym in English «Digital Services Act»), a law that could radically change the way big technology companies advertise such as Google and Facebook, and more specifically, in their collection of user data.

Thus, after passing a first vote in the European Parliament, the Digital Services Law received a new impetus last weekend, after reaching a political agreement in Brussels that definitively opens the doors for the DSA be the first of its kind in the world.

The Digital Services Law could change how we understand online advertising and data collection

As we mentioned, the Digital Services Law will prevent large technology companies from using sensitive user data, such as race, sexual orientation, or religion in order to target your ads. Thus, the DSA will apply to all online intermediaries that provide services in the EU and particularly affects giants such as Google, Amazon, Meta or Twitter -identified in the agreement as “the large digital platforms and services”.

Another interesting point is that the new law also will ensure that these platforms provide services that allow users to opt out of their tracking systems: that is, a Facebook user can continue to use all Facebook services normally without being tracked.

Platforms will also be pressured to remove illegal content and products online, including hate speech or counterfeit or pirated products. Thus it will be possible to ensure that “what is illegal offline is also seen and treated as illegal online”, as stated by the Executive Vice President of the European Commission and head of Digital Competence portfolios, Margrethe Vestager. In order to ensure this, the European Commission and the member states will have access to the algorithms of the large platforms. There will also be a “notice and take action” mechanism, giving users the ability to report illegal content, to which the platforms must respond quickly and effectively, guaranteeing that notifications are not arbitrarily or discriminatorily processed. To these measures will be added the conducting checks, both random and non-random, of merchants of online products and servicesso that consumer safety is reinforced at all levels of the chain.

The proposal also includes two rules that Parliament agreed to last month: the prohibition of advertisements directed at minors, rules requiring online platforms to be more transparent in their algorithms and identification requirements for porn platforms. Will also search care for victims of cyber violenceespecially those affected by “revenge porn”, demanding their immediate removal.

Furthermore, the new law will prohibit companies from using ‘dark standards’, that is malicious tactics to lure users into sharing their data. These dark patterns or dark patterns include techniques that range from the use of advertising banners hidden behind download buttons to the implementation of complicated processes so that a user subscribed to a service can unsubscribe from it. Once the law is passed, any company that violates these policies could face fines of up to 6% of your global income.

Conflict in Ukraine sets precedent for new crisis measures

Due to the increasing information flow derived from the Russian aggression that Ukraine is suffering, the decision has been taken to extend the EU Digital Services Law by adding a new article establishing a crisis response mechanism. Your goal is alleviate the effects of disinformation and its manipulationbeing able to require large platforms to limit possible threats through specific actions that will be limited to three months.

Another new measure that emerged as a result of this crusade against disinformation is the obligation to conduct annual independent audits That will affect the big platforms.

A measure that is taken in the midst of the controversy over the privacy of Internet users

“We are moving in the direction where we make the algorithms follow the democratic rulebook, they haven’t today, but they will in the future,” said Christel Schaldemose, a lawmaker who heads the DSA in Parliament.

«Not only online platforms they will not have to remove the illegal content, but they will have to assess the real harms that their services deriving towards minors and civil discourse in generalEU lawmaker Dita Charanzova said, noting that the draft of the new law addresses issues raised by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Being a measure that emerged in the midst of controversies and controversies around the privacy of user data, in addition to the deep-rooted feeling that the “surveillance” of large technology companies is abusive because it exploits the vulnerabilities of people, as happened in the case of Cambridge Analytica, the EU’s Digital Services Act has cleared several hurdles on the way to this point.

For now, to the EU Digital Services Law it still has to receive formal approval by the Parliament and the European Council. Once this is achieved, it will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and, after 20 days, it will come into force.

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