Staying safe online

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German Digital Services Act Staying safe online

Users of online platforms and search engines should be able to trust online content. Hate speech, brand piracy and unsafe products should disappear from the internet. Today the Federal Government has created the framework to take better action against these offences.

2 min reading time

A woman has a laptop on her lap and is shopping on an online shopping site.

Digital services such as online marketplaces and search engines must be trustworthy – that’s what the Digital Service Act ensures.

Photo: ullstein bild

What is it exactly?

Regardless of whether users are shopping online for a last-minute Christmas present or checking the latest news, they must be able to trust digital services such as online marketplaces and search engines and be confident that products are safe and content is legal. A uniform legal framework applies across the European Union. It is called the Digital Services Act, or DSA. The DSA requires digital service providers to take action against illegal content. The largest platforms and search engines have had to comply with the DSA since 25 August 2023. Compliance is monitored by the EU Commission. The DSA will apply to all other operators from 17 February 2024. Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur federal network agency will hold primary responsibility for monitoring compliance with the rules in Germany. The legal basis for this is the German Digital Services Act, which has been approved by the Federal Cabinet.

How will it make the internet safer?

The German Digital Services Act gives German authorities the powers they need to enforce the DSA for companies subject to German oversight. An independent coordination office for digital services will be created within the Bundesnetzagentur. It will ensure compliance with the requirements of the DSA and will be responsible for fines for infringements. Users can submit complaints directly to the office. The Bundesnetzagentur will ensure fairness and transparency for commercial users of online payment processors and search engines.

The DSA also sets out rules for advertising on online platforms, including a ban on the use of certain personal data for advertising purposes. The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information is enforcing European rules in this area. As Germany’s federal office for protecting young people from harmful media, the Bundeszentrale für Kinder- und Jugendmedienschutz will oversee protecting young people in digital spaces.

Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt (Criminal Police Office) will handle complaints of suspected online crimes and investigate illegal content.

Which laws will no longer be in force?

The new laws replace the Telemedia Act and the majority of the Network Enforcement Act. In future existing rules will be directly regulated through European or German digital services legislation.