Categories: Europe Legislation

The new EU digital strategy: A good start, but more to be done

In a strategy and two white papers published today, the Commission has laid out its vision for the next five years of EU tech policy: achieving trust by fostering technologies working for people, a fair and competitive digital economy, and a digital and sustainable society. This vision includes big ambitions for content regulation, digital competition, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. Here we give some recommendations on how the Commission should take it forward.

We welcome this vision the Commission sketches out and are eager to contribute, because the internet today is not what we want it to be. A rising tide of illegal and harmful content, the pervasiveness of the surveillance economy, and increased centralisation of market power have damaged the internet’s original vision of openness. We also believe that innovation and fundamental rights are complementary and should always go hand in hand – a vision we live out in the products we build and the projects we take on. If built on carefully, the strategy can provide a roadmap to address the many challenges we face, in a way that protects citizens’ rights and enhances internet openness.

However, it’s essential that the EU does not repeat the mistakes of the past, and avoids misguided, heavy handed and/or one-size-fits-all regulations. The Commission should look carefully at the problems we’re trying to solve, consider all actors impacted and think innovatively about smart interventions to open up markets and protect fundamental rights. This is particularly important in the content regulation space, where the last EU mandate saw broad regulatory interventions (e.g. on copyright or terrorist content) that were crafted with only the big online platforms in mind, undermining individuals’ rights and competition. Yet, and despite such interventions, big platforms are not doing enough to tackle the spread of illegal and harmful content. To avoid such problematic outcomes, we encourage the European Commission to come up with a comprehensive framework for ensuring that tech companies really do act responsibly, with a focus on the companies’ practices and processes.

Elsewhere we are encouraged to see that the Commission intends on evaluating and reviewing EU competition rules to ensure that they remain fit for purpose. The diminishing nature of competition online and the accelerating trend towards web centralisation in the hands of a few powerful companies goes against the open and diverse internet ecosystem we’ve always fought for. The nature of the networked platform ecosystem is giving rise to novel competition challenges, and it is clear that the regulatory toolbox for addressing them is not fit-for-purpose. We look forward to working with EU lawmakers on how EU competition policy can be modernised, to take into account bundling, vertical integration, the role of data silos, and the potential of novel remedies.

We’re also happy to see the EU take up the mantle of AI accountability and seek to be a standard-setter for better regulation in this space. This is an area that will be of crucial importance in the coming years, and we are intent on shaping a progressive, human-centric approach in Europe and beyond.

The opportunity for EU lawmakers to truly lead and to set the future of tech regulation on the right path is theirs for the taking. We are eager and willing to help contribute and look forward to continuing our own work to take back the web.