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What Europe's Digital Services Act Could Mean for Content Creator Entrepreneurs The increased burden on compliance could stifle creativity amongst content creators, especially those without extensive support teams or legal resources.

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Written by Akriti Seth

The European Union has ushered in a transformative era for digital services with the full enforcement of the Digital Services Act (DSA) as of February. The landmark regulation, which aims to create a safer and more accountable online environment, now applies to all of the online intermediaries and platforms operating within the EU, marking a significant shift in the digital landscape.

According to the DSA requirements, platforms must put in place measures to counter the spread of illegal goods, services and content online, including mechanisms for platform users to flag such content and the obligation of platforms to cooperate with "trusted flaggers."

Some of the largest social media platforms have already taken steps to comply. Elon Musk's X has a new feature that enables reporting illegal content, and according to the European Commission, companies like Apple, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have also put in place new and easy ways to report illegal content on their platforms.

Initially, in August 2023, the DSA's regulations were applied specifically to Very Large Online Platforms (VLOP) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSE) with more than 45 million users in the EU. But as of 17 February 2024, the DSA rules apply to all platforms, a change that could significantly influence the burgeoning creator economy, valued at $10.35 billion in 2023 and expected to soar to $41.17 billion by 2030.

It's not just social media platforms that should take note. Entrepreneurs who run their own content creation businesses in Europe should also be aware of the new DSA changes that will impact them, particularly the new moderation tools.

"Content creators need to understand how these tools work and how they might affect their content," said Stuart Meczes, Chief Content Officer at Contnt.io, a platform for content creators that aims to empower them to earn fairly for their work. The platform also creates a community forum and educational platform where content creators can inform each other about best practices about emerging issues like DSA.

According to Meczes, "Content creators should be aware of the new content moderation tools and understand how their content might be affected by this automated moderation process." He added, "This also involves legal liability when it comes to publishing and distributing content on various platforms." Meczes says creators should consider their business model and how the new content moderation processes could affect their reach, and in consequence, their profitability.

The DSA introduced the option for users to contest decisions in the case that their content is removed or restricted, a move that Meczes believes could empower creators. However, he warned of the potential penalties for non-compliance, which could be severe.

"When in doubt, it never hurts to seek legal advice," he advised

Whether the new DSA regulations will empower or limit content creators is nuanced. According to Meczes, "It can do both."

On one hand, the act provides clear guidelines and avenues to dispute moderated content, which can empower creators by enabling them to challenge unfair de-platforming.

On the other hand, the increased burden on compliance could stifle creativity amongst content creators, especially those without extensive support teams or legal resources.

Balancing freedom and protection.

The potential consequences of de-platforming under the DSA are significant, with creators possibly losing audience reach and engagement.

The challenge for the EU's content creator community is striking a balance between protecting users from harmful content while upholding freedom of expression.

Meczes says he advocates for transparent policies and human-aided review processes which allow creators to appeal decisions to platform authorities, while allowing them to also, retroactively make the necessary changes to flagged content to comply with platform rules.

Monetization, too, remains a thorn in the side of many content creators. There are 207 million content creators in the world. However, only 46.7% creators are full-timers. According to a 2022 study, 3% make $500,000 or more, but 26% make $1,000 or less.

Meczes warns that increased costs for compliance and legal fees could eat into content creators' already slim margins.

As Europe's creator economy continues to grow, understanding and adapting to the DSA will be vital for content creators. With the right strategies and awareness, creators can navigate this new regulatory landscape effectively, ensuring their creativity and business thrive in a compliant and supportive environment.

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