Impact of the Digital Services Act for startups and scale-ups

Recently the European Commission released two proposals for new legislation, both of which will have a significant impact on platforms: the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DSA is relevant for all platforms, while the DMA is relevant for very large platforms (+45M users). Earlier this year,, together with the Dutch Startup Association, StartupAmsterdam and Allied for Startups, took the initiative for a petition in which we draw attention to the consequences of the DSA for startups and scale-ups. Our message in short: new legislation may not hinder platforms to innovate and to scale. In this blog we explain the most important points of the proposal for new legislation (be aware: this is a proposal, it’s not final yet).

Liability of platforms as intermediaries

Intermediaries such as platforms are and remain exempt from liability for online content and the prohibition of general monitoring remains. Both are two cornerstones of internet regulation and will be enforced under the new rules. This is also something we have pleaded for in our petition. The liability of platforms is harmonized by the EC throughout Europe and clarified on the following points:

  • Platforms and other intermediaries are not liable for users’ unlawful behaviour unless they are aware of illegal acts and fail to remove them.
  • Diligent platforms are not liable for illegal content they detect themselves.

However, the EC wants platforms to do more against illegal content. To this end, the following proposals are made (a distinguish is made between intermediary services, hosting services, online platforms, very large platforms and graduated on the basis of those services' size and impact):

  • Rules for the removal of illegal goods, services or content online
  • New rules on traceability of business users in online marketplaces, to help track down sellers of illegal goods or services
  • Transparency reporting

A complete overview of proposed measures can be found through the link at the end of this blogpost.

Small platforms 

The European Commission seems to have an eye for small platforms (fewer than 50 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed €10 million) and wants to prevent them from having to deal with disproportionate measures (something we also have called upon in our petition), although they are also responsible for removing illegal content. To this end, the following is proposed:

Small and micro-enterprises are exempted from the most costly obligations (an overview of these obligations can be found at the website of the EC, link at the end of this blogpost)

Very large platforms

In its proposal, the EC makes a distinction between platforms and very large platforms (45 million users, 10% of the number of EU residents). This threshold is a point of concern because it may disincentivize startups from scaling in the EU. 

These very large platforms like Google and Facebook are subject to more obligations with regard to transparency of their recommender systems and user choice for access to information and data exchange with authorities. These platforms will also be subject to a new oversight structure. This will comprise a board of national Digital Services Coordinators, supervisors on Member State level who are responsible for the application and enforcement of the DSA. 

What are the next steps? 
The next step is for both the Member States and the European Parliament to reach a position. Consultations between Member States will take place in the coming period. This process will probably take a long time.

Read more


For a smaller platform such as ours (Project Cece), it is important that the European Commission doesn’t impose disproportionate obligations that we, unlike larger platforms, cannot afford. This would create a competitive disadvantage. It seems that the European Commission has taken this into account, although new regulations always cause extra work and research that we prefer to put into the growth of the company. We are now expanding across the EU and for that reason, it is positive if regulations are consistent across EU countries.

Project Cece

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