Chapter I – General provisions (Art. 1-3)
Art. 1 DSA - Subject matter
- The aim of this Regulation is to contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market for intermediary services by setting out harmonised rules for a safe, predictable and trusted online environment that facilitates innovation and in which fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter, including the principle of consumer protection, are effectively protected.
- This Regulation lays down harmonised rules on the provision of intermediary services in the internal market. In particular, it establishes:
- framework for the conditional exemption from liability of providers of intermediary services;
- rules on specific due diligence obligations tailored to certain specific categories of providers of intermediary services;
- rules on the implementation and enforcement of this Regulation, including as regards the cooperation of and coordination between the competent authorities.
Information society services and especially intermediary services have become an important part of the Union’s economy and the daily life of Union citizens. Twenty years after the adoption of the existing legal framework applicable to such services laid down in Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (1), new and innovative business models and services, such as online social networks and online platforms allowing consumers to conclude distance contracts with traders, have allowed business users and consumers to impart and access information and engage in transactions in novel ways. A majority of Union citizens now uses those services on a daily basis. However, the digital transformation and increased use of those services has also resulted in new risks and challenges for individual recipients of the relevant service, companies and society as a whole.
(1) Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’) (OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1).
Member States are increasingly introducing, or are considering introducing, national laws on the matters covered by this Regulation, imposing, in particular, diligence requirements for providers of intermediary services as regards the way they should tackle illegal content, online disinformation or other societal risks. Those diverging national laws negatively affect the internal market, which, pursuant to Article 26 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), comprises an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods and services and freedom of establishment are ensured, taking into account the inherently cross-border nature of the internet, which is generally used to provide those services. The conditions for the provision of intermediary services across the internal market should be harmonised, so as to provide businesses with access to new markets and opportunities to exploit the benefits of the internal market, while allowing consumers and other recipients of the services to have increased choice. Business users, consumers and other users are considered to be ‘recipients of the service’ for the purpose of this Regulation.
Responsible and diligent behaviour by providers of intermediary services is essential for a safe, predictable and trustworthy online environment and for allowing Union citizens and other persons to exercise their fundamental rights guaranteed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the ‘Charter’), in particular the freedom of expression and of information, the freedom to conduct a business, the right to non-discrimination and the attainment of a high level of consumer protection.
Therefore, in order to safeguard and improve the functioning of the internal market, a targeted set of uniform, effective and proportionate mandatory rules should be established at Union level. This Regulation provides the conditions for innovative digital services to emerge and to scale up in the internal market. The approximation of national regulatory measures at Union level concerning the requirements for providers of intermediary services is necessary to avoid and put an end to fragmentation of the internal market and to ensure legal certainty, thus reducing uncertainty for developers and fostering interoperability. By using requirements that are technology neutral, innovation should not be hampered but instead be stimulated.
In order to achieve the objectives of this Regulation, and in particular to improve the functioning of the internal market and ensure a safe and transparent online environment, it is necessary to establish a clear, effective, predictable and balanced set of harmonised due diligence obligations for providers of intermediary services. Those obligations should aim in particular to guarantee different public policy objectives such as the safety and trust of the recipients of the service, including consumers, minors and users at particular risk of being subject to hate speech, sexual harassment or other discriminatory actions, the protection of relevant fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter, the meaningful accountability of those providers and the empowerment of recipients and other affected parties, whilst facilitating the necessary oversight by competent authorities.
In that regard, it is important that the due diligence obligations are adapted to the type, size and nature of the intermediary service concerned. This Regulation therefore sets out basic obligations applicable to all providers of intermediary services, as well as additional obligations for providers of hosting services and, more specifically, providers of online platforms and of very large online platforms and of very large online search engines. To the extent that providers of intermediary services fall within a number of different categories in view of the nature of their services and their size, they should comply with all the corresponding obligations of this Regulation in relation to those services. Those harmonised due diligence obligations, which should be reasonable and non-arbitrary, are needed to address the identified public policy concerns, such as safeguarding the legitimate interests of the recipients of the service, addressing illegal practices and protecting the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter. The due diligence obligations are independent from the question of liability of providers of intermediary services which need therefore to be assessed separately.