Hertie School researchers present recommendations for the implementation of the Digital Services Act

The European Digital Services Act (DSA) is a done deal. But whether the legislative package is effective or not depends on national implementation. A policy paper by the Hertie School shows which factors are key.

Hate speech, misinformation, polarisation – at this point, it is clear that social media are not just used for networking with old friends and sharing cat pictures. In October 2022, Brussels enacted the Digital Services Act (DSA) to rein in the tech giants behind the social networks. However, the implementation of the legislative package remains in the hands of each individual country, and it will depend on the work of Digital Service Coordinators (DSCs). In a policy paper, Hertie School Centre for Digital Governance researchers Philipp Darius and Professor of Digital Governance Daniela Stockmann lay out key points to ensure that the DSA is successful.

“The DSA is an important step forward, but to make sure it has teeth, the national coordinating bodies must be adequately positioned and equipped to take on global tech giants,” says co-author Daniela Stockmann. “An agile organisational structure and close exchange with academia are just as important for that as Europe-wide minimum standards for the powers and scope of the coordinating bodies.”

Philipp Darius adds: “Researchers need reliable access to research data and not rely on platforms' good-will. Otherwise, there will not be a better understanding of the risks and social implications of social media and online search platforms."

Recommendations for action

The authors detail three essential recommendations for action. They address both the organisation of the coordination centres and the Europe-wide interaction of authorities:

  1. Promote exchange with academia and civil society
    The supervisory authority should have the broadest possible access to scholarly research and draw on it when formulating and implementing its goals and decisions.
  2. Agile organisational structure
    While the coordinating bodies are likely to be integrated into existing authorities across Europe, independent, fast and flexible work is a key factor for their success. The tech industry is evolving fast, so DSCs need the technical and human capacities to respond quickly and to ensure knowledge transfer.
  3. European minimum standards for competition
    The corporations behind social media often choose locations where they benefit from low taxation and other factors. The various national coordinators for digital services need to have balanced capacities to prevent companies strategically choosing one over another. However, the Irish DSC's capacity must be stronger than average since most large intermediary service providers currently have their European headquarters in Ireland.