The Digital Services Act (DSA) passed on the seventh of July in the European Parliament identifies the category of hosting service providers and provides for their responsibilities relating to the procedure for reporting and disposing of illegal content („notice & action”).
Hosting providers are a qualified form of indirect service providers. In accordance with Article 2(f) of the DSA, the hosting service shall consist in the storage of the information provided by the recipient of the service and on request. The hosting provider does not disseminate the information provided, which differentiates him from the category of internet platforms (therefore, instant messaging and e-mail are hosting providers, not platforms). In addition to the obligations for all providers of indirect services, DSA sets out additional responsibilities for hosting providers. If they are also online platforms, the obligations imposed on the hosting providers will apply also to these platforms.
Reporting illegal content
The obligations imposed on the hosts involves the „notice & action” procedure. Users and others will be able to report content that they consider illegal electronically. In principle, this should be done eg. through a dedicated form that will enable the justification of the notification, the indication of the applicant’s data and the designation of the electronic address of the information location. The supplier should immediately acknowledge receipt of the notification and notify his decision with regard to the information. These decisions may include: removing content, preventing access to it, suspending or terminating the service, suspending or deleting user accounts, or refusing to delete data, etc. If the supplier does not respond to the notification, he is responsible for the information provided by the third party. It should be stressed that the provider is obliged to remove illegal content – which violates the provisions of EU or national law, and not harmful for other reasons.
Notification of a decision
If the supplier decides to remove the content or prevent access to it, he should notify of his decision and the reasons for it to the person who posted the content. The elements listed in the DSA should be included in the above – it should indicate the terms and conditions of use of the service that the published information infringes. The notification should be structured in such a way that its recipient has the possibility to appeal against the decision. It is not clear whether the provider is liable to the recipient, for example for deleting the data, if it turns out that the supplier’s response was incorrect, because the content was not illegal. In any case, for providers that are not Internet platforms at the same time, the appeal involves taking court action or out of court procedure. There is no obligation to conduct an internal appeal procedure. In addition, anonymized decisions with justifications will be published in a public European Comission database.