Big Tech gets new rules from EU, what will you notice as a user?

Big Tech gets new rules from EU, what will you notice as a user?

Today, the Digital Services Act (DSA) officially goes into effect for 19 social media platforms and search engines. The rules tighten responsibilities on personalized advertising, unsafe content and automatic recommendations. What will you notice about this as a user?

The Digital Services Act goes into effect for Big Tech about one year after its passage. The rules impose more obligations on online platforms to ensure that unsafe content is removed, but they will also have to perform better in terms of cybersecurity.

A total of 19 social media platforms, search engines and digital marketplaces are subject to the legislation as of today. These include the most used social media platforms, digital marketplaces such as Amazon, Booking, Zalando, app stores from Google and Apple, and finally the search engines Google and Bing.

Less illegal content

As a user, the first thing you should see is a decrease in the amount of illegal content. With social media platforms, things like acts of terrorism and child pornography should only be visible for a short time, as rules obligate these platforms to undertake action faster.

For online sales platforms, the new rules mean there are fewer illegal or risky products for sale. The DSA states that these platforms must make their “best efforts” to ban ads that promote illegal products.

As a user, you can help get this content removed from the platform quickly, as the DSA mandates platforms to provide quick and clear options for users to flag illegal content. After a report, the platform is obliged to inform you of the result of the flagging. In addition, as a user, you must be given the opportunity to challenge the decision.

No personalized advertising based on user data

The DSA also puts a firm brake on personalized advertising. Namely, it is no longer allowed to determine target groups based on personal data such as sexual orientation and political preferences. Every personalized ad you see must also indicate which factor determines this ad will be relevant for you.

Platforms with more than 45 million users also need to give you a choice in the recommended content you see. Often, recommendations work with algorithms that must match your interests, but the DSA gives you the ability to adjust those algorithms yourself. It is possible to adjust the topics the algorithm identifies as interesting to you. But it is also an option to turn off the personalized recommendations completely.

The EU is imposing these rules on specific platforms that can take over public debate or impose certain thoughts on a large audience due to their sheer size. The effects of the rules will be monitored by the Commission itself, as all platforms subject to the DSA must submit a detailed annual report on the remaining risks the platform may pose to EU citizens.

Also read: Meta will ask permission for personalized advertising in the EU after all

What about breaches?

Two newly created institutions can determine breaches of the Digital Services Act. The new regulators are the Digital Services Coordinators and the Board for Digital Services.

A violation carries a monetary penalty of up to 6 percent of the annual revenue generated by the offending company. Users can claim compensation if they believe they have suffered a loss due to a breach.

More insight for researchers into platforms

Meta already clarified in what ways its social media platforms will change under the DSA. On Facebook and Instagram, the new legislation will allow users to set that they only want to see stories and Reels from people they follow. The algorithm to tailor search results to user preferences and interests will also be disabled.

For studies on how Meta’s social media platforms work, “the Meta Content Library” and the new API will be interesting. These additions come especially for European researchers and allow them to take a closer look into the algorithm and mechanisms of the platforms.

Google also already clarified the impact of the DSA. There, researchers can gather more information about Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play and Shopping. Furthermore, the tech giant is mainly adding information pages where users can find out through which mechanisms, for example, personalized ads are shown.

The DSA allows users to adjust, reduce or completely disable algorithms and personalizations. On issues such as illegal content and personalized advertising, new laws will change the digital space. What users do with the remaining optimization options is up to them.