DSA: Delivering a digital level playing field

The Digital Services Act will provide new rules for a better functioning digital single market, while providing a safer online environment, says Henna Virkkunen
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By Henna Virkkunen

Henna Virkkunen (FI, EPP) is the ITRE Committee opinion rapporteur on the Digital Services Act

20 Jan 2022

The Digital Services Act (DSA) is aimed at improving the functioning of the digital single market, in particular digital services offered by intermediaries. These include, for example, cloud services, online platforms and content-sharing networks.

The reason new rules are needed is because a great deal has changed since the e-commerce Directive was adopted in 2000. Over the past 20 years, intermediaries such as online platforms have created many new opportunities for consumers and businesses alike. At the same time, they have also enabled the dissemination of illegal content and sale of illegal goods and services online. 

“The main goal of the new DSA is to create a safer, more predictable and accountable digital environment for both consumers and businesses”

The main goal of the new DSA is to create a safer, more predictable and accountable digital environment for both consumers and businesses. The rule of thumb should be that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online.

Despite the fact that online platforms such as social media platforms have a huge impact on society and significant influence on our everyday lives, they should not act as their own legislators and determine the applicable rules of the market. Transparency is important.

However, the new rules will not work without a level playing field. Therefore, companies based in third countries and operating in the EU digital market should be obliged to follow European rules. However, the task of legislating the digital environment is not easy. In order to ensure that the digital environment is not used for illegal purposes, we need to strike the appropriate balance between different legitimate interests and arguments. 

As the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee rapporteur on the DSA, my focus has been on ensuring the required legal certainty and on small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which play a key role in creating Europe’s digital competitiveness and growth. It is important for European businesses, particularly SMEs, that we ensure a level playing field and that these businesses are not faced with an excessive administrative burden.

Companies should be encouraged to scale up and innovate while a level playing field ensures fair competition. While we tackle illegal content online, we must simultaneously ensure the necessary flexibility and legal certainty for SMEs to operate and grow. Therefore, in the ITRE text I introduced various exemptions for SMEs. 

While addressing the systemic risk that companies of a certain size inevitably pose, we need to make sure we do not create unnecessary red tape for companies whose size and operational model do not require this type of public policy intervention. 

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