Recently, on the 17th of February, the deadline for online platforms to publish the number of monthly active users expired. In addition, less than a year remains for the Member States to appoint Digital Services Coordinators responsible for overseeing the DSA at the national level.
Therefore, Instrat Foundation, together with the Frank Bold Society and 13 other European organisations interested in the digital economy, has developed recommendations to meet the challenges related to the entry into force of the DSA.
As we believe, the effectiveness of the new law depends not only on the European Commission but also on the Member States. Therefore, in an open letter, we call on EU governments to adapt their national regulations to the challenges we have identified, ensuring its full operationality while respecting the core EU values at the same time.
Main challenges related to implementing the DSA at the national level
- Designating the DSCs and ensuring their effectiveness;
- Guaranteeing political independence of the DSCs
- Including civil society via strong links between DSCs and CSOs;
- Raising awareness among citizens regarding the rights brought by the DSA and awareness of digital services providers about the new obligations; and
- Ensuring a transparent and inclusive DSA implementation process.
Considering the above-mentioned challenges, we make the following recommendations:
1. Designating the DSCs and ensuring their effectiveness by
- Equipping the DSC with sufficient technical, financial, and human resources;
- Harmonising the national procedural practices and laws;
- Providing efficient communication between the DSC and other involved regulators; providing that the national communication channels are compatible with the international information-sharing system, as described by article 85 of the DSA;
- Safeguarding the DSCs in the future (providing consistency with other digital regulations).
2. Ensuring political independence of the DSCs
- Providing the regulator with a distinct statutory authority, free of ministerial control;
- Prescribing well-defined professional criteria for appointments;
- Appointing the head of the DSC for a fixed period and prohibiting their removal (subject to formal review), except for clearly defined due cause;
- Providing the agency with a reliable and adequate source of funding;
- Exempting the regulator from civil service salary limits to attract and retain the best-qualified staff and to ensure adequate good governance incentives;
- Prohibiting the executive from overturning the agency’s decisions, except through carefully designed channels such as new legislation or appeals to the courts based on existing law; and
- Requiring regular reporting to the public and the legislature.
3. Inclusion of civil society and ensuring strong links between DSCs and CSOs
- Establishing advisory councils composed of civil society representatives;
- Increasing transparency of the new environment for private actors outside of the digital policy bubble;
- Supporting for non-state actors involved in DSA enforcement (for instance trusted flaggers).
4. Awareness raising
Boosting public awareness of the effects and benefits of the DSA
- Educating and engaging with the public via informative, accessible publications, events and campaigns;
- Establishing a science communication unit to collaborate with researchers and relate their findings as well as the DSC’s own findings to the public;
- Actively engaging media outlets to draw attention to users’ rights, ways to enhance safety and transparency online as well as emerging systemic risks;
- Encouraging online platforms to inform their users about the DSA. This information should be easily accessible, clear in nature, and written in language that is accessible to the audience; and
- Organising workshops aimed at facilitating the interaction between civil society and DSA enforcement processes.
5. Ensuring a transparent and inclusive DSA implementation process by:
- Including not-for-profit, non-state expert actors in the implementation process as it is vital to provide additional input and expertise as well as to build a society-wide sense of ownership towards the new regulatory framework;
- Organising regular, accessible consultations before any secondary legislation is passed, including but not limited to representatives of academia, sectoral NGOs, tech companies and other stakeholders.