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DSA: What does the 2022 Digital Services Act mean for you?

From 2022 online marketplaces, networking apps and digital communities will have to comply with a new Digital Services Act (DSA). The law will cover the EU, and therefore impact any businesses that wish to operate and digitally engage within it.

There is uncertainty surrounding the potential requirements of the new law, though we can make some assumptions. And experience from GDPR warns us to make sure we’re prepared…while taking care not to jump too far ahead. Easy peasy! 🥴

To many institutions and businesses, GDPR implementation felt last-minute and rushed. Indeed, the volume of fines for data privacy violations suggest many businesses still fail to meet the necessary standards. So although the exact parameters of the DSA are not yet known, there are things you can do now to make sure you’re on the right track.

What we do know about the DSA is that the new rules will aim to eliminate illegal or fraudulent content, and provide a way for users to securely report it. Content considered ‘illegal’, such as hate speech, will also be covered by the act.

A whole variety of businesses will come under the remit of DSA, but how will it impact the international higher education sector? We’ve highlighted three key areas, and suggested how you might make your institution DSA-ready.

1. What does the DSA mean for demographic targeting?

Personalisation is a top priority for many HE institutions – and we’re the first to champion that cause. The introduction of the Digital Service Act will mean that digital advertising giants such as Facebook and Google will be required declare how they recommend content through algorithmic and artificial intelligence (AI) tools. This shouldn’t impact universities directly; however, it is likely to impact the ways in which you can advertise through these platforms. Expect tighter messaging guidelines, and stricter ‘interests’ and audience type matching. In other words, your ad content will need to be genuinely relevant to your target audience.

How to prepare: Conduct a persona review. Do you know who your audience are, where they are, what they’re interested in, and what they react to? If the answer is ‘no’ now is the time to find out.

2. How will the DSA impact content moderation?

Platforms may be required to institute complaint and rectification mechanisms, which means systems to accurately track and eliminate potentially harmful content will become crucial. With authentic student-made content being a key component to many university marketing strategies, vigilance will be more important than ever. In the past couple of years the world has seen a steep spike in inappropriate or hateful content online as major social and political issues have played out across social media channels and the wider web. While those big platforms will be required to take the first steps to ensure they are DSA compliant, it will be on individual organisations and institutions to monitor output (and input) on a micro-level.

How to prepare: Audit your social media and PR policies to ensure you have processes in place to deal with harmful content, and complaints. Are colleagues aware of these policies, or who to contact if issues arise online? Now is the time to train and publicise.

3. And finally, what about our reliance on technology?

It’s probably already a full-time role to monitor content across your institution’s social media channels, if not a full-time team. As moderation regulations become tighter for the internet at large, the brands that use the big platforms for marketing (and let’s face it, that’s all of us) will need to play our part in policing. AI-driven solutions are at the front of the queue to ease the pressure on already stretched marketing teams, and will prove a great example of humans and machines working in tandem. Sure, AI can listen and identify potential issues, but in the HE sector many instances of online negativity require some level of human intervention and follow-up action.

How to prepare: Assess your current creation and moderation capabilities, and investigate relevant solutions. This will allow you to beat the inevitable rush come 2022. More importantly, it will give your teams the time to get comfortable and familiar with the tools they’ll be using.

Above all, avoid a DSA replay of May 2018 (a.k.a. the great GDPR scramble)

The DSA will come into force around a year from now. Although we’ve established that it’s difficult to take solid preparatory action until the rules are fully articulated, there are two things you can do to ensure minimal disruption at the last minute, a la GDPR 2018:

  1. Follow the story, and stay up to date with the latest information. Set a topic alert so that you’re aware of any updates that do come along over the coming months.
  2. Audit your digital marketing strategy now. Do you have the right people, processes and platforms in place to ensure your institution continues to thrive in the face of the new law?

Ultimately, taking a more active approach to your content marketing strategy can only be a positive step. Act now, and you’ll be ahead of the game – and no doubt the sector – when the rules come into play.

If you’re unsure where to begin with a digital marketing audit, take our assessment to find out where your institution is at in comparison to others in the sector – and how you can become top of the digital class! 🤓

The Global Young Minds experts currently have a small number of consultancy spots available. We welcome ambitious institutions who want to innovative and accelerate their digital engagement. Is that you? Get in touch!