DSA: European Commission designated 19 Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines

26 Aprile 2023

Yesterday, 25th April 2023, the European Commission has designated 17 Very Large Online Platforms (“VLOPs”) and 2 Very Large Online Search Engines (“VLOSEs”), adopting the first designation decision, according to article 33 of the Regulation (EU) 2022/2065 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 October 2022 on a Single Market For Digital Services and amending Directive 2000/31/EC (hereinafter, “Digital Services Act” or “DSA”).

Specifically, the designated platforms resulted to have a number of average monthly active recipients of the service in the Union equal to or higher than 45 million.

The Commission took its decision on the basis of user data that platforms had to publish by 17th February 2023, pursuant to article 24 of the DSA.

Some of the designated VLOPs are Amazon Store, Apple AppStore, Facebook, Google Play, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, and Wikipedia.

On the other hand, the 2 designated VLOSEs are Bing and Google Search.

The Digital Services Act

The Digital Services Act, entered into force on 16th November 2022, is a European regulation that contains several provisions which aim to counter illegal content online, in a more effectively way, by establishing greater accountability over the monitoring and moderation of content from online platforms. 

The DSA is composed of a set of regulatory provisions proposed by the European Commission on 15th December 2020, in order to strengthen the regulation provided for digital services, such as online intermediation servicesand, therefore, strengthen user protection, since with the digital transformation and increased use of those services also new risks and challenges for individual recipients of the relevant service, companies and society as a whole are raised. Specifically, the DSA aims at empowering and protecting users online, including minors, by requiring the designated services to assess and mitigate their systemic risks and to provide robust content moderation tools.

The text of the DSA pays particular attention on big tech and, specifically, on VLOPs and VLOSEs.

These operators, designated by the Commission, are subject to additional specific obligations in order to manage systemic risks.

In particular, providers of VLOPs and VLOSEs shall, inter alia:

  • carry out a risk assessment and shall diligently identify, analyze and assess any systemic risks in the Union stemming from the design or functioning of their service and its related systems, including algorithmic systems, or from the use made of their services;
  • put in place mitigation measures, tailored to the specific systemic risks identified by DSA provisions, and such measures shall be reasonable, proportionate and effective;
  • take some specific actions (such as assess whether, and if so to what extent and how, the functioning and use of their services significantly contribute to a serious threat; or identify and apply specific, effective and proportionate measures to prevent, eliminate or limit any such contribution to a serious threat), where a crisis occurs and the Commission require to take one or more actions;
  • ensure that their risk assessments and their compliance with all the DSA obligations are externally and independently audited, at their own expense and at least once a year;
  • compile and make publicly available in a specific section of their online interface, through a searchable and reliable tool that allows multicriteria queries and through application programming interfaces, a repository of all the ads served on their interface, containing specific information.

Therefore, following the first designation of VLOPs and VLOSEs, the relevant companies, within 4 months, will have to comply with the full set of obligations, including additional obligations, provided by the DSA. The press release of the first designation decision by the European Commission is available in English at the following link: Digital Services Act: Commission designates first set of Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines

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