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Following the hearing of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, the proliferation of fake news in the eco-system of Western democracies and disinformation campaigns by illiberal hostile state and non – state actors, Guy Verhofstadt has today launched a series of proposals to take back control of the internet , social media companies and internet platforms facilitating the erosion of liberal democracy.The proposals, outlined in his paper, “Taming the Tech Monster”, published today by Project Syndicate, call for a number of urgent steps to be taken at the European level :
- Proportionate anti-trust measures to ensure fair competition and prevent market dominance or abuse by technology companies, social media companies and internet platforms. The break-up of big tech companies like Facebook should not be ruled out;
- An EU level agency, akin to the US Federal Communications Commission, to assist in the creation of a genuine European Single Market for tech companies;
- The utilisation of blockchain technology to decentralize a new kind of internet, to restore trust in the exchange of data and limit hacking and manipulation;
- Two new EU investment programmes to advance developments in Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing;
- The appointment of a European investigator, similar to Robert Mueller in the US, to investigate foreign interference in European democracies and propose measures to safeguard our electoral systems which must be implemented to prevent manipulation;
- Steps to ensure that internet platforms are responsible for the information published on their sites. Every political advert should have a digital imprint disclosing who paid for it;
- Greater powers and incentives for data protection agencies to scrutinise fake news, bots, trolls, as well as algorithms, especially ahead of elections.
- Privacy campaigns to educate the public on the use of privacy settings, ad blockers and other digital safeguards.
- An end to the concentration of control over personal information and the enforcement of safeguards to prevent the scraping of personal data without the consent of users.
Commenting on the release of the paper today, Guy Verhofstadt said:
“The world of big tech monopolies that Zuckerberg and others have created, fuelled by opaque algorithms and controlled by outsourced content cleaners, is starting to look like a combination of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In today’s digital world, public discourse is being controlled by one company with a near monopoly over the distribution of news online, with profound consequences for liberal democracy”
“The recent hearing of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the European Parliament did not reassure, quite the opposite, which is why Europe needs a radical new approach to the internet and regulation of big tech companies who have total power to set the parameters of deciding what news and other information we all consume."
“The only way to change this is to revolutionise the internet itself, by giving it back to ordinary citizens. Nationalisation cannot be the answer as it could lead to state manipulation, what we need is more competition. As the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed, the abuse of citizen’s personal information has gone hand in hand with the proliferation of micro – targeting, psychological profiling and fake news, which has benefitted populists and illiberal politicians seeking to exploit people’s fears. It is time to fight for a new model for the internet.”
“Digital technologies know no political borders and individual countries are powerless to fight back. Only a unified European can take us past our current age of digital dysfunction and towards a new model utilising block chain and quantum computing to deliver an internet based on transparency, privacy and accountability.”
ENDSLink to Project Syndicate article.
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