The European Union Digital Services Act (DSA) cleared its final major regulatory hurdle, with online providers set to be slapped with new rules around combating illegal activity and restrictions on targeted advertising.

After months going through the various stages of the European Union legal process, including being passed by the European Parliament, the DSA was given final approval by the European Council today (4 October).

The document now needs to be signed by the respective presidents of the European Council and European Parliament, before being printed in the Official Journal of the European Union.

It will come into force 15 months after publication.

The DSA has been welcomed by mobile industry bodies GSMA and ETNO. It is an attempt to tackle promotion of illegal content and goods online by increasing accountability from large platform providers including search and social media companies.

Providers must react “quickly, while respecting fundamental rights” when illegal content is posted; targeted advertising to children based on their personal data is banned; and there are limits on advertising based on sensitive data including gender, race or religion.

The DSA also prohibits misleading interfaces designed to trick social media users into making “unintended, unwilling and potentially harmful decisions regarding the processing of their personal data.”

There are also a set of rules applicable to online channels to combat the sale of illegal goods.

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The regulation also slaps separate obligations on “very large online platforms and search engines”, requiring them to offer users a way to source content recommendations not based on profiling, and to “analyse the systematic risks they create”.

This latter clause includes assessing risks around dissemination of illegal content and investigating any negative impacts on fundamental rights, electoral processes, gender-based violence and mental health.    

The DSA compliments the Digital Markets Act, which was approved by the European Council in July and is set to be published in the Official Journal next week.