No grace period for DSA compliance in Ireland – Interview

The Irish watchdog will go after breaches of EU platform rules, the new authority says.


There will be no grace period for online platforms to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) in Ireland, John Evans, digital services commissioner at Irish media regulator Coimisiún na Meán, told Euronews in an interview.

“If we detect a breach, we need to go after that immediately, that’s the strategy,” Evans said. He is one of five commissioners at the newly established broadcasting and online media regulator tasked to oversee DSA compliance.

Ireland is at the forefront of DSA enforcement, after the stringent platform rules – that include transparency and election integrity requirements – started applying to all online platforms on 17 February. Dublin is home to 13 of the 23 Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and search engines that are so far designated by the European Commission, including Google, TikTok, Meta and fashion website Shein. Chinese market place Temu might also be soon added to that, as its user numbers in Europe keep growing.

How is your regulator set up?

“We have four divisions: media development, broadcast, online safety and my area – platform supervision and investigation. There are five commissioners, and we make decisions collegially. So even though I am the DSA commissioner, I also participate in decisions elsewhere and vice versa.

If it gets up to full strength the platform supervision and investigation team will be about 60 people, but we are at 25 now. The strategy is to start filling from the top down, right now we have the senior management levels in place. We were pleasantly surprised about the interest we have had during recruitment. Our head of investigations is coming from our central bank, for example. But we have also taken people from academia and civil society groups, which is excellent, especially for the policy areas. In addition, we have recruited safety professionals who have worked at the platforms themselves in Dublin.”

Big Tech as well as smaller companies register in Ireland, do you know how many platforms you oversee?

“Many VLOPs are based in Ireland, the latest on that is 13. On the social media side these are X, TikTok and Facebook for example, but we also have Google, Microsoft and Apple. The Commission is in the driving seat with respect to checking those VLOPs, but in Dublin, there are also some responsibilities. A good portion of our supervisory activity so far has been related to VLOPs.

We have done a mapping exercise for the ones below these thresholds, maybe there are some 400 other services. But we need to get more accurate on that. My guess would be that it’s proportionally higher than other countries.”

How DSA-ready are platforms overall?

“In the run up to 17 February, when we got the mandate officially to oversee the DSA in Ireland, we did a lot of speaking events and outreach. There are differences in readiness: on the VLOPs side they were typically more ready than others; in the so-called middle group below the threshold, there was awareness, and some have put in place measures; and then there is another group that is not as aware.

Three of our four supervision teams are dedicated to VLOPs, and one to the below-the-threshold companies. We have been writing to platforms and divided the 400 in three sections to try to contact them.”

When we look at VLOPs, there has been a lot of enforcement action. Do you also plan enforcement at national level against smaller companies?

“When people ask me this question, I’d say there are no safe harbours. But at the same time, we take a risk-based approach. If there’s a breach, there will be no grace period and we need to go after that immediately. That’s the strategy.”

The EU-wide Digital Services Act Board, which comprises all national DSA regulators, started in February, how is that going?

“Prior to 17 February, some agencies across the EU that were likely to become Digital Services Coordinators (DSC), got together and began planning work and setting up working groups to get the ball rolling on issues such as understanding the trusted flagger system, complaint handling and researchers. All that work fed into the readiness of the DSCs, in addition there was some informal work with the Commission.

On 19 February we had our first board meeting. We meet monthly, so we had three so far and those are going well; it’s very advanced in its enforcement priorities. The number of DSCs has been growing too. We discuss things like what we need from the working groups, what do they need to be concentrated on? And should we focus on thematic issues, like elections and protection of minors. A big question is what is the best way to cooperate and to figure out the regulatory landscape.”

How about the EU elections? Do you think these recent investigations into Facebook and Instagram about the lack of disinformation tools will help?


“There are election guidelines under the DSA; the VLOPs need to do risk assessments and cover areas such as illegal content and electoral integrity. The guidelines recommend measures that platforms can take around election time. The fact that the Commission has initiated some investigations in this area shows that they are not just guidelines, but that DCSs mean business around these elections. They want the platforms to be as ready as they can and to recognize as well that we are dealing with an enforcement regime.”

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2024-05-16 07:31:28

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