Came into effect on 16 November 2022, the Digital Service Act of the European Union has made the online platforms publish the number of their active users by 17 February 2023. The tech giants like Twitter, Meta and Google have surpassed the threshold of 45 million users.

Table of Content

  • Threshold Exceeded
  • Digital Services Act
  • Necessity of Digital Services Act in EU
  • Response Towards Digital Services Act

Threshold Exceeded:

As the number of average monthly users suppressed the threshold limit of 45 million, the prominent tech giants are facing stricter online content rules by the European Union (EU). Twitter, Alphabet Inc’s Google and the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and Whats App, Meta Platforms Inc, published the number of their average monthly users on Thursday as per the guidelines by the Digital Service Act (DSA). According to this act by the EU, the companies with more than 45 million users are marked as colossal platforms with the onus to follow a code of conduct and share data with the EU authorities. 

Figure 1 CEO of Alphabet: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Meta: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Twitter: Elon Musk (In image from left to right)

As per the estimation of the past 45 days, Twitter is reported to have an average of 100.9 million monthly users in the EU. In the past six months, Meta had an average of 255 million monthly active users on Facebook and about 250 million average monthly active users on Instagram in the EU. For Alphabet, the count of average monthly users goes to 332 million at Google Search, 274.6 million at Google Play, 278.6 million at Google Maps, 74.9 million at Shopping and 401.7 million at YouTube.

Digital Services Act:

On July 2022, the Digital Services Package was adopted by the European Parliament, followed by the publication of DSA in the official journal on 27 October 2022. The DSA came into effect on 16 November 2022 and will be applicable for either fifteen months or from 1 January 2024. The online platforms were sought to publish the number of their active users by 17 February 2023.

The platforms with number of users exceeding 45 million will be considered as ‘Very Large Online Platforms’ (VLOPs) and ‘Very Large Online Search Engines’ (VLOSEs), and bound to work in accordance with DSA guidelines such as risk management and auditing. Within a duration of 4 months from their designation, these companies have to impart their first annual risk assessment to the EU Commission.

Figure 2 Map of European Union (Image Courtesy: Investopedia)

The Digital Services Act (DSA) along with the Digital Market Act (DMA) formulates a single set of rules that majorly focuses on fostering a safer digital era, safeguarding the fundamental rights of the users and to ensure progress and competitiveness within the national and international market. The DSA is formed to scrutinize online platforms like social networks, app stores, content sharing platforms etc., while the DMA regulates gatekeeper online platforms that narrows inter-relation between consumers and businesses regarding the digital services. 

Figure 4 Timeline for Digital Services Act (Image Courtesy: Official website of European Commission)

Necessity of Digital Services Act in EU:

The manipulation of algorithms to proliferate the spread of misinformation, illegal exchange of goods, content and services online possess serious concern for the fundamental rights of users of digital services. Companies with extreme reach of their users play a crucial role in the digital economy as private rule-makers which may result in preferential situations. To tackle these issues, EU formulated these rules of governance over the digital services.

Figure 3 European Union flag (Image Courtesy: Eumetsat)

Response Towards Digital Services Act:

There has been a mixed response towards the DSA imposed by the EU. Some analysts are favoring this step taken by the EU by considering DSA as a game changer and a new regulatory framework for ensuring accountability and transparency about online intermediaries. On the contrary, few are criticizing this act and considering it a step by EU to over-regulate the internet.

The act has been condemned by various tech companies and is labelled as a load of rules that lack clarity and possess extensive demands by lawmakers. Meanwhile, the European media sector, for example the European Federation of Journalists has given a green flag for this act. They are expecting DSA to promote transparency of the recommendation system of digital platforms and to eradicate the influence of gatekeepers to regulate the visibility of specific journalistic articles.

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