The Digital Services Act (DSA) is a comprehensive set of laws that aims to regulate digital services and platforms to ensure transparency, accountability, and user protection. In other words, it’s the European Union’s way of regulating and harmonizing separate laws under one universal piece of legislation to prevent illegal and harmful activities online and the spread of disinformation.
In this guide, we will explore the key provisions of the DSA regarding transparency, the role of government and regulatory bodies in enforcing these provisions, and how you can develop an effective action plan to comply with the DSA’s transparency requirements. At the same time, we will also examine the impact of DSA obligations on various stakeholders, including platforms, users, and other online service providers.
You need first to have a general overview on the DSA ? Take a look at our Digital Services Act Guide.
Transparency: What Does the DSA Say?
Transparency is a central aspect of the DSA, as it seeks to address the growing concerns surrounding the lack of openness and accountability in the digital realm. The DSA mandates that digital service providers must be transparent in their operations, algorithms, and content moderation processes. This means that platforms are required to provide clear and accessible information about their terms and conditions, data handling practices, and advertising policies.
Moreover, the DSA emphasizes the need for transparency in algorithmic decision-making. Platforms must disclose how their algorithms work, including any factors or biases that may influence the visibility or ranking of content. This provision aims to increase trust among users and ensure that algorithms are not used to promote illegal or harmful content.
Key Provisions of DSA Transparency
To comply with the DSA’s transparency requirements, digital service providers need to take certain steps. First and foremost, they must create a statement of reasons that explains their content moderation decisions, including any removals or restrictions. This statement should be easily accessible to users and provide clarity on why certain content was deemed inappropriate or in violation of the platform’s policies.
Here’s a Statement of Reason Template:
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Additionally, platforms must design a DSA transparency report that provides detailed information about their content moderation practices, user complaints, and actions taken to address illegal or harmful content. This report should be comprehensive and include relevant statistics, such as the number of removals, appeals, and user notifications. By doing so, platforms can demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability.
Here’s a page of a Transparency Report Template:
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Enforcement: The Role of Government and Regulatory Bodies
Enforcing the transparency obligations outlined in the DSA is a shared responsibility between digital service providers, government entities, and regulatory bodies. The DSA empowers national competent authorities to monitor and supervise platforms’ compliance with transparency requirements. These authorities have the power to request information from platforms, conduct audits, and impose fines or other penalties for non-compliance.
Additionally, the DSA establishes a European Board for Digital Services (EBDS), which serves as a coordination and advisory body for national authorities. The EBDS plays a crucial role in fostering cooperation among member states and ensuring consistent enforcement of the DSA across the European Union. It also facilitates the exchange of best practices and provides guidance to platforms on how to meet their transparency obligations effectively. You can find more information on DSA requirements on this European Commission’s dedicated page.
DSA Transparency: What Is Your Action Plan?
As a digital service provider, it is essential to develop an action plan that enables you to comply with the DSA’s transparency requirements. Here are some steps you can take to ensure transparency in your operations.
Create Your Statement of Reasons
Start by creating a statement of reasons that clearly explains your content moderation decisions. This statement should be concise, transparent, and easily understandable for users. It should outline the specific policy violations or criteria that led to the removal or restriction of content. By providing a clear rationale for your actions, you can foster trust and transparency among your user base.
Design Your DSA Transparency Report
Next, design a comprehensive DSA transparency report that provides insights into your content moderation practices. Include relevant statistics, such as the number of removals, appeals, and user notifications. Additionally, consider including information about the training and qualifications of your content moderation team, as well as any external audits or assessments you have undergone to ensure compliance with the DSA.
Generate Your DSA Reporting with Checkstep
Need to generate automatically your Statements of Reasons and Transparency Report ? Discover Checkstep DSA plugin, integrated within a day to your Platform.
Once connected, Checksep platform delivers all the features required under the DSA:
> User-facing requirements, such as right to appeal, and explanations about past decisions;
> Platform requirements, such as transparency reporting, auditing capabilities, and crisis response,
> Third-party connections, necessary to access to law enforcement agencies, dispute resolution services, and EU transparency database.
Transparency : what impact will the DSA obligations have?
Let’s first have an overview of VLOP’s existing Transparency Reports, before looking at its impact on other platforms and users.
Overview of VLOP’s Transparency Reports
Article 17 of the Digital Services Act (DSA) obliges providers of hosting services to send clear and specific statements of reasons to any affected recipient when they remove or otherwise restrict availability of and access to information provided by the recipient. In other words, providers of hosting services need to inform their users of the content moderation decisions they take and explain the reasons behind those decisions.
The Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPS) have to submit this information. The DSA has a transparency report, however it’s not that easy to navigate, so we’ve created a way more user friendly report you can discover here. You can select items on the charts or tables, and use the filters to get to the data you need.
Impact of DSA Transparency on Other Platforms
The DSA’s transparency requirements will likely inspire other platforms to adopt similar practices. As users become more aware of the importance of transparency, they will expect all platforms to provide clear and accessible information about their content moderation processes. This shift towards transparency will foster a more accountable and responsible digital environment.
Impact of DSA Transparency on Users
For users, the DSA’s transparency obligations mean increased visibility and understanding of how platforms operate. Users will have access to information about content removals, appeals processes, and the factors influencing the visibility of their own content. This transparency empowers users to make informed decisions about their online interactions and hold platforms accountable for their actions.
The Digital Services Act (DSA) brings a renewed focus on transparency in the digital landscape. By mandating clear and accessible information about content moderation practices, algorithmic decision-making, and data handling, the DSA aims to foster trust, accountability, and user protection. As a digital service provider, it is essential to understand the key provisions of the DSA regarding transparency and develop an action plan to comply with these requirements. Embracing transparency not only helps you meet regulatory obligations but also builds user trust and enhances the overall digital experience. Download our free template to kickstart your DSA transparency journey today!
Recapitulation of Key Points
- The DSA emphasizes transparency in digital service providers’ operations, algorithms, and content moderation processes.
- Key provisions of DSA transparency include creating a statement of reasons and designing a comprehensive transparency report.
- Enforcing DSA transparency is a shared responsibility between digital service providers, government entities, and regulatory bodies.
- Digital service providers can develop an action plan by creating a statement of reasons, designing a transparency report, and leveraging reporting tools like Checkstep.
- The DSA’s transparency obligations impact platforms, users, and other online service providers by fostering trust, accountability, and user empowerment.
As digital services continue to evolve, the need for transparency will remain crucial. The DSA is just the beginning of a broader movement towards creating a fair, accountable, and user-centric digital environment. It is essential for digital service providers to stay informed, adapt to changing regulations, and continuously improve their transparency practices. By embracing transparency, we can build a digital landscape that prioritizes user safety, trust, and empowerment.
The Digital Services Act, also known as the DSA, is the first attempt by the European Union to regulate platforms. Until now, all 27 EU Member States have each had their own laws that may or may not apply to online platforms. The DSA is the first major attempt to harmonise these separate laws under one universal piece of legislation.
What is a Transparency Report?
Transparency reports are one of the main requirements of the DSA, applying to all
in-scope services. Specifically, all services are required to publish a report once a year
at a minimum. This process is similar to the requirement set forth in Germany’s NetzDG
legislation and includes similar information obligations as well.
What is a Statement of Reason?
Under the Digital Services Act (DSA), all providers of hosting services are required to provide users with clear and specific information whenever they remove or restrict access to their content. These statements are called Statements of Reasons.