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Q+A: What Does the EU’s Digital Services Act Mean for U.S. Internet Users?

Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok and other social media platforms recently agreed to impose stricter policies around monitoring the posts on their sites. While the move happened as the companies are facing rising pressure from American citizens and legislators who are concerned about the effects of misinformation and the collection and sale of their personal information by the sites, the difference-making push likely came from the impending rollout of the European Union’s Digital Services Act.

This companion policy to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation – which is responsible for websites continually asking about cookies and data collection preferences, since its implementation in 2018 – would, among other mandates, hold companies responsible for illegal content – including intentionally false information — posted on their sites.

As the full scope of the regulation takes effect this fall American users are likely to notice a number of changes to the websites they use and the social media platforms they post on. To help explain the goals of the DSA and how the European policy is likely to affect U.S. users, the News Blog spoke with Jordan Fischer, JD, director of the Center for Law and Transformational Technology at the Kline School of Law, whose research focuses on data privacy and cybersecurity law.

Broadly speaking, how does the Digital Services Act fit into the EU’s array of tech legislation alongside the 2016 General Data Protection Regulation and the recently passed Digital Market Act? 

The GDPR, the ePrivacy Directive, the Digital Market Act, and the Digital Services Act are all laws that are being leveraged to re-think the internet, and how users are protected when online. Some of the laws have a clear privacy component, like the GDPR. Some are more economic in nature, like the Digital Markets Act. The Digital Services Act is really looking at harmful conduct online. While there may be a privacy or economic component to that harmful conduct, it may be outside of those laws. So, the Digital Services Act fills a potential gap to protect users. 

What aspects of the EU’s legal and legislative systems have allowed it to become a leader in regulating tech companies over the last handful of years?  

For decades, the EU has recognized certain privacy and consumer rights that provide a strong foundation for it to legislate in this area. Further, while the U.S. tends to take a more market- oriented approach, allowing users to use their buying power to encourage companies to take protective measures, the EU has a strong background of consumer protection measures. 

What routes might the U.S. take as it considers similar regulations on tech companies? What sort of framework or precedent could be used as the foundation for these laws?

In the U.S. considerations around technology and its users, may take a more economic approach to its laws. Part of that is because many of the large tech companies today are based in the U.S. Additionally, the U.S. historically used the market to dissuade certain corporate actions. 

Has the EU been able to successfully enforce the GDPR since its establishment in 2018? How did its creation affect tech platforms and their users in the U.S.?

Success is a really abstract term. With the GDPR, the EU has been extremely successfully in creating an international conversation around technology, privacy, and the risks that come with the increasing use of technology. Its enforcement is starting to become more prominent, and will likely only be more impactful in the coming years as key decisions are handed down. There are still areas for improvement, but that would be the case with any law that goes into effect. 

How are American users likely to be affected by the DSA? Do you see anything different in its enforcement mechanism by comparison to the GDPR? 

American users will likely benefit from the DSA as many companies may decide to apply its protections to all users, and not just EU-based users. Further, it will continue to push the conversation around the safe and ethical creation of online technologies, which will benefit all users of a platform. 

Media interested in speaking with Fischer should contact senior news manager Emily Storz at or 215.895.2705.

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