Digital Brief: She hates the United States

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“She hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met,”

– US President Donald Trump, Wednesday 26 June.


Donald Trump suggested yesterday that the EU had been out of line in suing U.S. technology companies like Facebook and Google, claiming that the EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager “hates the United States.” Google has particularly been on the receiving end of Vestager’s clampdowns, receiving fines totalling to more than  $9 billion in recent years. EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev has more.

For her part, Vestager is continuing to rally for the Commission’s top job but failing that, will stay in Brussels as Denmark’s next Commissioner, EURACTIV’s Sam Morgan writes.

Facebook. Hardly one to ever escape Vestager’s scrutiny, Facebook has plans to establish an independent oversight board “analogous to a court,” that will have the power to make decisions on what content should be removed from the platform, the company’s head of global policy, Nick Clegg, said on Monday (24 June)

Disinformation. Clegg’s comments come after a report published by the outgoing Romanian Presidency of the EU Council said that approach to tackling disinformation across the EU “varies greatly across member states,” while EU leaders last week also agreed that “sustained efforts” were required in the fight against fake news.

Media. On the media front, Fondation EURACTIV hosted an event in the European Parliament on Tuesday, in which experts and MEPs convened to discuss the sustainability of the sector. Various proposals were floated, including the notion of a vice-president of the Commission for democracy, as well as a Marshall Plan for Europe’s media.

Moreover, EURACTIV’s Agata Palickova produced an interesting retrospective, looking at how the Czech media reported about the largest protest since 1989, which recently took place across the country against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš over corruption allegations. Babiš also recently said that “there is no reason for people to protest in the street.”

Artificial Intelligence. It’s been a big week for AI in Brussels. The Commission’s High Level Group for AI released a report on Wednesday that said the EU should consider the need for new regulation to “ensure adequate protection from adverse impacts” in the field, with regards to developing technologies including biometric recognition, the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), AI systems built on children’s profiles, and the impact AI may have on fundamental rights.

Meanwhile, influential thinker W. Brian Arthur talked to EURACTIV’s Alicia Prager about why AI is “an enormous change for our society” and why it is important to regulate it carefully.

On Tuesday, Nobel-prize winning economist Sir Christopher Pissarides delivered the eighth Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa lecture at the Brussels economic forum. Speaking with regards to the concerns many have had about AI’s impact on the jobs market, Pissarides said that “alongside the destruction of jobs by robots and artificial intelligence, there will be growth of employment opportunities elsewhere in the economy.”

Finnish Priorities. The Finnish Presidency of the Council has released its priorities for the next six months. Cyber threats, including the issue of disinformation, are in there, as is the objective of reinforcing the EU’s data economy.

The first gathering of the Working Party on Telecommunications and Information Society under the Finnish Presidency will examine the controversial ePrivacy file, the Finish Perm Rep announced on Thursday.

Cybersecurity. The EU’s Cybersecurity Act comes into force today. Under the plans, ENISA has been granted a permanent mandate as the bloc’s cybersecurity agency and a European Cybersecurity Certification Framework will be established.

On Wednesday, I caught up with several EU officials familiar with the matter, who told me that with regards to the scope of the voluntary certification framework, cloud-based and Internet of Things products could be included, in addition to devices using 5G networks. The Commission hopes that the certification scheme will provide an effective market-based solution to cybersecurity concerns on the bloc.

A new statutory group will be established to nominate products or services to be certified, called the European Cybersecurity Certification Group (ECCG). A first meeting of the ECCG will take place in July.

US/Iran. From cybersecurity to cyber attacks, after a US cyber offensive disabled computer systems that control rocket and missile launchers in Iran, an EU official told me that there needs to be an “immediate de-escalation” of tensions in the Middle East and that “exclusively diplomatic routes are needed to resolve differences.”

Connected cars. Following the Council Legal Service’s opinion on the controversial C-ITS delegated act, industry has weighed in. A joint letter from ETNO, GSA, GSMA and 5GAA, calls for member states to ” formally object to the current version of the Delegated Act,” due to concerns about market access, technology-neutrality and threats to innovation.

5G. On Friday, Serbia installed its first 5G base station at the Science and Technology Park in Belgrade. The station will be available to domestic and foreign companies, startups and technical college students. Huawei is a project partner.

Trolling. The UK government’s Digital department has been busy, releasing a couple of reports this week.  Particularly interesting is the one on the ‘prevalence and impact of online trolling.’ However, the UK’s digital clout seems to be slowly eroding, after a group of Britain’s best-known quantum computing scientists have quietly moved to Silicon Valley to found a start-up called PsiQ, the Financial Times reports.

On My Radar

Next week, I’m heading to Strasbourg for the first session of the European Parliament. GSMA, ETNO and DIGITALEUROPE are putting on a welcome event for all MEPs interested in Digital Affairs. If you’re around, drop me a line!

VUB academics are also looking for stakeholder feedback on EU copyright policy. If you’d like to take part in the survey, click here.


What else I’m reading this week:


Upcoming events

EURACTIV’s Beatriz Ríos presents an event on Health and Wellbeing in the Digital Era, tomorrow. 

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