The European Commission is working on the Digital Single Market Strategy in order to ensure a fair, open and secure digital environment. On March 28th, the special advisor of the EC - Guillaume Klossa - published his report "Towards European Media Sovereignty". We asked digital age leaders from the V4 countries whether the EU should work on a common solution to safeguard information sovereignty at the European level, and what measures should be taken?
Małgorzata Fraser – digital privacy analyst and educator, technology journalist
Information sovereignty cannot be overlooked on the European level.
An ideal common solution would ensure protective measures against the weaponisation of information as well as attempts of using media as a tool of political impact.
The rapid development of Artificial Intelligence along with its tools and ubiquitous presence of algorithms in many areas of modern life and the infosphere should be an alarming signal for European lawmakers. Information sovereignty cannot coexist in any way with algorithmic bias (widely seen as a threat tightly attached to automated decision-making processes in many fields).
Questions of data ownership, data privacy and surveillance are crucially important, too.
Botond Felady – lawyer, foreign policy expert and commentator
The European Union has been starting to flex its muscles when it comes to creating tools to carve out our sovereign domains in cyberspace. In other words, several important pieces of legislation have been accepted in the last few years to enhance the capabilities of EU-level and national organs to cope with international players in the European informational space.
However, far too few tasks have been yet delegated to the EU-level, just think of the EU StratCom Task Force, where the number of employees remains symbolic, whereas this unit is in charge of monitoring EU-wide disinformation (EU-Mythbusters).
It is also well understood that we can have all the legislative measures without much impact, unless the EU economies catch up on software and hardware production in the face of their global Chinese and US counterparts.
If we are unable to deliver our own online and technical products, the member states run far larger risk than necessary. An interim solution being put in place is a certification of products coming from third countries, but the Huawei-scandal just proved how cumbersome it is to cooperate against global players, particularly if they have their countries respective political support.
Maria Staszkiewicz – digital economy expert, CEO of the Czech Fintech Association
Given the recent EU legislative debacles in regard to the Digital Single Market, I am quite sceptical about the meaningfulness and feasibility of legal measures in the area of media sovereignty.
The discussion around the copyright directive proved how little European parliamentarians and government officials understand about the functioning of digital technologies, and new business models based on them.
Even if well-intentioned, the efforts to support traditional media outlets in light of their declining revenues, ended up in clumsy and potentially dangerous legislation. It might constrain access to quality information in a world where articles with dubious, unchecked or misleading content could appear on the top of web searches. Moreover, it could threaten the profit of those it aims to protect as smaller content creators may not have enough bargaining power to negotiate good licensing conditions with digital platforms.
Discussions of other DSM initiatives, such as e-Privacy regulation or e-commerce framework, unveiled similar problems related to the lack of public expertise, while competition law still needs to be adjusted to the era of digital platforms. Competition law is the area where the EU has the most-forward looking approach and which may spill over to all economic sectors, solving some of its problems. More of hastily introduced regulation will not help. The media industry, to thrive economically and to retain its vital social role, needs to try harder to find a new viable business model.
Dávid Tvrdoň – product manager for online news & technology correspondent at SME.sk
I think that the question today is not “whether we should work on the common European solution”, but “how should we do it”. This – in and of itself – represents a huge step, though we still have a lot of work to do.
There have been several wake-up calls in the recent years – personal data breach scandals on social media, election interference by foreign adversaries or Europe’s overall lagging behind in global digital innovation (be it artificial intelligence or new digital companies that are considered global players).
A digital single market within Europe should not only provide a fair, open and secure digital environment, but it also ought to safeguard every citizen’s right to access information and have a high standard of privacy.
Also it should lay the foundations for present and future competitiveness of digital companies and startups. We have already taken steps in Europe to start a general debate and to identify common goals, the next chapter is to start coming up with legislation that brings these objectives to life.
The article was compiled and edited by Gabriela Rogowska.
This questionnaire is part of the #DemocraCE project organised by Visegrad/Insight.