Hosting Services vs Online Platforms Obligations: A DSA Guide

Navigating the legal landscape of the DSA is crucial for online services - this guide clarifies your obligations as a host or platform.

Published on February 7, 2024
Last Updated on February 7, 2024

It is important to understand whether you are a passive host or an active platform as it can determine your legal obligations under the Digital Services Act (DSA). This distinction is crucial and can greatly impact the way you operate your digital service.

In this article, we aim to guide you through the difference between hosting services and online platforms in relation to DSA intermediary services and whether they are just storing user content or actively engaging with it, as this will require specific hosting services obligations or online platforms obligations. Following these guidelines ensures that you are compliant with the law and helping make the internet safer for everyone.

What are Hosting Services?

Hosting services are digital warehouses that store information upon a user's request. Some examples of these services include cloud storage platforms and web hosting services for websites. It's important to note that these services do not actively share the information with the public, as they lack the element of dissemination. In other words, they only store and do not distribute the data.

What is an Online Platform?

Online platforms not only store information but also share it with the public. These platforms include social media giants, online marketplaces, and any service that allows users to share content with a potentially unlimited audience. According to the EU DSA, "dissemination" means making information readily available to anyone, not just a specific group.

Navigating DSA Obligations: Hosting vs. Platform

Understanding the distinction between hosting services and online platforms is important because the Digital Services Act (DSA) imposes different obligations on each. Hosting services have simpler requirements, mostly involving implementing takedown mechanisms for illegal content and reporting suspicious activity. On the other hand, online platforms face a much stricter set of obligations, which include implementing complaint-handling systems, giving preferential treatment to trusted flaggers, and conducting risk assessments for illegal content.

The distinction can get blurry when services offer both private and public features. Email services are a good example. Private messaging between specific individuals wouldn't qualify as dissemination. However, public forums or open channels within the service would fall under the online platform definition and trigger stricter DSA obligations.

Ultimately, service providers must carefully assess their features and identify if they will need to follow hosting services or online platform obligations. This will determine their responsibilities under the DSA and ensure they comply with the law. The DSA provides some examples and guidelines, but further interpretation and discussion are expected to refine the application of this crucial distinction.

Differences between Hosting Services and Online Platforms

AspectHosting PlatformsOnline Platforms
DefinitionStore and make content available upon user requestActively disseminate information to the public
ExamplesCloud computing services, web hosting servicesSocial networks, online marketplaces, content-sharing platforms
Cooperation with authorities
Points of Contact and Legal Representative
Terms Of Service
Transparency Reporting
Notice and Action Mechanism for Content Removal
Reporting Criminal Offenses
Complaint and Redress MechanismNot Required
Trusted FlaggersNot Required
Transparency in Recommendation AlgorithmsNot Required
Dark Patterns ProhibitionNot Required
Advertising TransparencyNot Required
No Targeted Advertising to Minors or based on Special Category of DataNot Required

Go Beyond Compliance With Us

Whether you're creating the digital experience as an online platform or securely hosting data, mastering your DSA obligations is critical to your success.

At TaskUs, we confidently assist service providers of all sizes in navigating the new regulatory landscape. We offer comprehensive assessments and tailored compliance strategies. With our strong end-to-end solutions and exceptional combination of human + tech capabilities, you can rely on Us to help you:

  • Assess and understand your regulatory hosting service or online platforms obligations, at an operational level.
  • Identify and assess the risks stemming from the design or functioning of your service, and deliver Risk Assessments if/when required.
  • Review your existing content moderation processes, identify gaps with regulatory obligations, assess the criticality and effort level for each gap, and lay out a mitigation plan that takes these factors and your available bandwidth into account.
  • Scale and provide workforce across multiple countries and time zones.
  • Provide an experienced team to test the implementation of pilot projects.

Contact Us today to learn more about how we can help you navigate the DSA platform and build a resilient, compliant online presence.

Learn more about regulatory compliance.


Sarah Edwards
Manager, Wellness + Resiliency
Sarah is an accomplished clinician, bringing 15 years of clinical mental health and management experience to her role. She is regarded as an expert in crisis work, compliance, and risk management. Her passion for online safety and Wellness are supported by a keen eye for trends and a talent for making complex topics accessible.