Categories: Europe

Mozilla provides feedback to ACM’s DSA Guidelines

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) has taken effect, ushering in a new era of accountability, transparency, and responsibility for digital platforms. Mozilla has actively supported the DSA –  and its aim to build a safer digital ecosystem – since the legislation was first proposed, and continues to contribute to conversations about how to implement it effectively.

Technology companies that offer services in the EU must “designate a sufficiently mandated legal representative in the Union and provide information relating to their legal representatives to the relevant authorities,” and each EU country must appoint a Digital Services Coordinator to interpret and enforce the DSA.

In January of this year the Authority for Consumers and Markets in the Netherlands (ACM) published draft guidelines for its interpretation and enforcement of the DSA. Mozilla recently provided feedback, focused largely on areas where further detail or clarification would be helpful, as well as discussing challenges small and mid sized platforms may face during implementation.

Specifically, Mozilla recommended the following:

  • Clarification of “ancillary services.”  

The ACM’s draft guidelines note that Recital 13 of the DSA exempts “ancillary services” where, as with the comment section of a newspaper’s website, “the possibility of posting comments… is only an incidental characteristic of the main service.”  Mozilla recommends that this “ancillary services” exception also expressly include services for tech support and product feedback, and similar platforms that exist only to support a primary product that is not subject to DSA. Such forums are clearly ancillary to the main products, as their purpose is to help address bugs and other product-specific issues within those products.

  • Refining the definition of “traders.” 

The DSA imposes additional requirements on platforms that host B2C online marketplaces, by requiring that the platforms track and store data about “traders” that operate on their platform.  DSA Recital 23, which presumes that traders in an online marketplace are offering goods or services for a price, highlights that this provision is intended to cover those platforms that facilitate online commerce. Mozilla recommends that the guidelines make this intent clear, by expressly stating that: (i) “traders” do not include those providing free online services, and (ii) platforms which do not incur profits or facilitate the exchange of money are not B2C online marketplaces.

  • Allowing platforms the flexibility to address spam.

The DSA’s obligations do not apply when platforms act to address “deceptive, high-volume commercial content.” For effective implementation of the guidelines, we believe there needs to be more clarification of how such content is defined. The ACM guidance indicates that the exception applies where someone intentionally manipulates a service through the use of bots, fake accounts, or deceptive practices. Mozilla recommends that the guidance be supplemented to ensure that platforms have the ability to address evolving threats: including clarifying that the references to bots and fake accounts are non-exhaustive examples and not intended to further constrain the spam exception, and establishing a plan to periodically update the guidance to address changing circumstances and developing technologies.

  • Clarifying the Statement of Reasons requirement.

Both the DSA itself and the ACM guidance require platforms to provide a statement of reasons whenever they moderate content or restrict a user account, explaining the legal or contractual provision on which their action was based. Mozilla asked that ACM provide additional details on what such statements should contain; this would provide greater clarity and standardization for platforms and ensure that moderation (particularly of illegal content) remains workable at scale.

  • Allowing platforms flexibility on suspensions.

The ACM guidance allows a platform to permanently suspend users for “manifestly illegal content related to serious crimes.”  However, it requires that a platform always issue a warning, before suspending a user. Mozilla recommends that the ACM expressly confirm platforms have the right to suspend users for violating their Terms of Service, even if their activity is not illegal.  Mozilla also recommends that the warning requirement be clarified, and reduced in cases where having to warn a user might prevent platforms from responding to serious offenses in a timely manner.

As a longtime advocate for the DSA and for platform accountability, Mozilla is enthusiastic about the legislation’s potential to create a safer Internet ecosystem for all. Our comments to ACM, and our ongoing work on this subject, aims to further that goal, without overly burdening small and mid-size platforms.  We look forward to working with the ACM and other European regulators in the coming months, as this legislation continues to take shape.