Digital Services Act: How the EU will regulate the Internet in the future

The EU Commission and the Council are gushing with self-praise for the new “Platform Basic Law”. But what does it actually say and what could follow from it?

Since the early hours of Saturday morning, the basic framework for the Digital Services Act (DSA) has been in place, which representatives of the EU Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Brussels Commission agreed on after a final marathon of negotiations. Alternatively, the DSA is regarded by its creators as the “gold standard” for Internet regulation, the end of the “Wild West” in cyberspace, in which the tech giants Amazon, Facebook, Google & Co. created their own rules, or even as the “digital constitution”.

Politicians in particular have high hopes for the Digital Services Act. “The DSA will improve the ground rules for all online services in the EU.” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) emphasized when announcing the compromise reached.. “It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space that protects free expression and opportunities for digital businesses.” The larger the platform, he said, the greater the responsibility of the operator.

Ultimately, according to the EU Commission president, the regulation gives practical effect to the principle “that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online.” This had previously also been repeatedly emphasized by Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager, who is responsible for digital, and the EU Parliament’s rapporteur, Christel Schaldemose of the Social Democrats. This rejection of the“Declaration of Independence” for cyberspace by early Internet utopians is not new, of course, and is actually a truism that has always applied. After all, “cyberspace” never stood completely free from the physical world.

At least somewhat more refreshingly and in keeping with the season, Alexandra Geese, shadow rapporteur for the European Green Group, hopefully describes the potential impact of the law as “the beginning of a digital spring.” For them, it is also the “first, decisive step toward more democracy and freedom on the Net.” It is not known whether she meant to portray various DSA precursors such as the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) as mediocre to bad.

But what does the regulation actually contain in terms of content and what consequences could develop from it? It is not yet possible to say for sure, as technical and legal experts from the EU’s legislative bodies have yet to conjure up the final text. However, the general lines can be discerned from communications from the parties who sat at the table until the very end.

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