The Science of Where Magazine mets Julian Jaursch, head of the project Strengthening the Digital Public Sphere at the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV) (think tank at the intersection of technology and society).
Julian, Internet regulation is a complex matter. What is the thesis of your reflection, What the European DSA and DMA proposals mean for online platforms (written with Aline Blankertz), published by Brookings on January 14, 2021?
The European Union revealed its plans to regulate big tech companies in December, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. These were highly anticipated draft laws, precisely because the matter is so complex. Our first analysis is that the European Commission is really pushing for a comprehensive accountability and transparency system, while maintaining some of the pillars of previous internet regulation. To deal with the complexities and open questions, for example, regarding online advertising or how rules can be enforced by independent oversight bodies, the upcoming months and years will be quite important to shape these rules. Because the rules that Europe adopts for the internet affect virtually every citizen and millions of businesses across the continent.
Progress in Europe are important but Internet regulation is a global issue. What’s happening in the United States (in particular, with the new Presidency)?
There’s different approaches to regulating tech companies and the platform economy generally. For example, in Europe, there’s a common data protection law with the General Data Protection Regulation, whereas the US does not have privacy legislation at the federal level. The new administration in the US could potentially move on this topic. Antitrust procedures are a big issue on both sides of the Atlantic. The US has lately made a huge push here with investigations and lawsuits against big tech companies.
What are the main activities of SNV, the think tank you work at? And, in your opinion, what are the opportunities and what are the risks of the fourth industrial revolution which, by now, has radically changed our way of life?
As a think tank working on how technology affects politics and society, SNV looks a various topics at the moment, from AI in foreign policy to transatlantic cyber security strategies to the characteristics of the platform economy. Digitalization can bring huge advances for education, health and communication, but this ongoing change needs to be rooted in human rights and put the dignity of human beings at the center. To give a concrete example: the way many people read and find news has changed dramatically over the past years. It’s easy to get educated online, but it’s also easy to find and spread conspiracy myths and hate. To deal with this change towards news apps, social media feeds and personalized content, I think it’s important to strengthen users’ digital news literacy, to support independent journalism and to deal with regulating social media. These are all very difficult and long-term efforts, but they’re necessary instead of pretending one single, small solution will suffice.