The European Commission pitched to member states on Tuesday (22 March) two proposals on a crisis management mechanism and a supervisory fee for very large online platforms, with the support of two presentations seen by EURACTIV.
The Commission introduced the idea of introducing a supervisory fee in the last political trilogue with the EU Parliament and Council on the Digital Services Act (DSA), where the executive committed to elaborate further on the proposal.
A mechanism for facing disinformation in exceptional circumstances was also proposed, in reaction to the ongoing Ukrainian crisis and related pro-Russian information manipulation.
While the DSA already covers crisis management related to public health and security, the EU executive identified in its gap analysis that the “main vulnerability of the measures proposed in the DSA stems from their anticipatory or voluntary nature.”
In particular, very large online platforms, those with more than 45 million users in the EU, will be requested to carry out a risk assessment, mitigation measures and audits every year as part of the risk management obligations included in the proposal.
Based on this yearly assessment, the platforms can join voluntary crisis protocols based on the expected type of crisis foreseen. The legislative proposal also includes providing vetted research access to platform data, which for the EU executive should help identify potential societal risks.
Nevertheless, the presentation notes that “in extraordinary, unforeseen circumstances, an online platform may not be prepared, despite having been diligent and compliant with its obligations.”
Therefore, the Commission proposed to complement the anticipatory mechanism and voluntary crisis protocol with crisis response triggers tailored for exceptional circumstances.
The document explains that the mechanism would only apply in times of extraordinary crisis, defined as “an objective risk of serious prejudice to public security or public health in the Union or significant parts thereof.”
As a result of immediate risk response, the Commission could mandate very large online platforms to perform a risk assessment on how they could help address the situation and oblige them to take the appropriate mitigation measures.
The platforms would then have to report to the Commission accordingly. If deemed insufficient, the Commission could request additional measures, although what these could mean it is not defined.
Similarly, safeguards for the Commission’s decisions and the measures taken by the platforms are also mentioned, but not provided.
For background, the presentation notes that supervisory fees is already a “common practice” in several sectors such as telecommunications, and it is also applied at the EU level with the banking supervision of the European Central Bank and the credit rating agencies supervision.
Moreover, the Commission is also charging directly for certain activities such as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System.
The supervisory fee would only apply to very large online platforms and search engines, for which the European Commission is set to oversee the enforcement of the DSA. The fee would be limited to the estimated costs related to the supervisory tasks or to process information related to their compliance with the regulation.
The activities covered would include the designation of the very large online platforms based on their quantitative threshold, supervision and enforcement of the obligations, and the sharing of information with other authorities and with Lumen, a database for legal complaints related to the removal of online content.
The fee would also finance the Commission work in support with the Board, a body gathering national authorities, the management referral requests to support other investigations and the settlement of disputes.
The EU executive is to adopt via an implementing act, secondary legislation, a detailed methodology for the determination of estimated costs and individual fees based on a yearly assessment, estimated costs, type of platforms to be supervised and their size.
The presentation also mentions an accountability mechanism, namely the Commission would regularly report to the EU Parliament and Council on the amount of costs incurred and supervisory fees charged.
For what concerns the use of the revenues, the fees are to be considered ‘external assigned revenue’, and as such “they can only be used to cover the specific costs stemming from the tasks mentioned in the act.”