Critical Questions Left Unanswered by Commission VP in Twitter Chat #AskAnsip

Monday offered an opportunity for interaction with the European Commission’s Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, a twitter chat hashtagged #AskAnsip. Ansip’s main message was that he wants evidence of “online barriers” standing in the way of the DSM. Questions regarding digital VAT, spectrum and cross-border access to entertainment got most of Ansip’s attention. Netopia of course also asked some questions, none of which got a reply.

From Netopia editor Per Strömbäck

.@Ansip_EU How will fair competition be secured across the #DSM? Will you put an EU online competition watch dog in place? #AskAnsip


#AskAnsip Will #Copyright enforcement be harmonised in #DSM? No level playing field if infringment is only enforced in some member states.


#AskAnsip Free press is essential to democracy but losing ad revenue to global competitors in digital space. Can the #DSM save the press?


#AskAnsip How can checks & balances be introduced to #DigitalSingleMarket to avoid abuse of dominant position by ” #InternetSkyscrapers “?


@Ansip_EU Pls make sure #DigitalSingleMarket puts people over data and does not harm #CulturalDiversity in EU #CitizensInternet #AskAnsip


#AskAnsip Great if #DigitalSingleMarket can help #StartUps but main competitive disadvantage is access to risk capital. What is the plan?


#AskAnsip Why the big focus on cross-border access to Movies & TV – is this really the most important goal of the #DigitalSingleMarket ?

From @netopiaforum

@Ansip_EU How will you protect funding for local content that relies on territorial licensing? #AskAnsip #culturaldiversity


And in response to VP Ansip’s tweet “Everyone should be able to buy the best products at the best prices, wherever he or she is in Europe. #AskAnsip

@Ansip_EU If that is the dogma, make sure to set aside extra funds for #CreativeEurope as local culture content funding will be killed

We can only speculate why Ansip chose not to answer any of these questions or any other questions on similar topcs. Maybe the volume made it impossible – there were more than 700 tweets with the #AskAnsip-hashtag – but this still means important questions are left unanswered. The Commission is or course not unaware of the dangers of abuse of dominant position, its previous actions against Microsoft and Google are examples of that. But how does that insight carry over into competition regulation for the digital single market? There is no reason to believe anything other than that these issues will only become more important, the risk of abuse greater and the consequences more severe. Also the topic of local content and cultural diversity should be close to home for the European Commission, but for all the talk of ending “geo-blocking” the solution is not clear how Team Juncker plans to protect the sensitive echo-systems that fund local content on a digital single market. Surely the answer is out there, perhaps the Commission even knows it. But we would like to know also.

Ansip puts a lot of faith in the Digital Single Market to fix jobs and growth for Europe, but as many have pointed out, the productivity increases of digitalization is often used for rationalization rather than job creation, not least in industries such as manufacturing, transport, construction and many others. The clear exception to the rule is the creative sector: digital content is a big job creator – Ansip himself pointed to the predictions made in last year’s Eurapp report with millions of jobs expected in the app economy. But this content relies on some of the fundaments that Ansip seems to want to remove in order to make the DSM come true: protection of intellectual property rights and freedom of contract for creators (including territories). Without these mechanisms, a digital single market runs the risk of becoming a machine for feeding the cloud companies with free or cheap content that their algorithms can monetize, for the benefit of Silicon Valley share-holders more than European employers. For all the Commission’s love for “evidence-based policy-making”, at the moment the Digital Single Market looks more like “faith economics”.

The real question for VP Andrus Ansip is “Do digital markets work like analog markets?”