Citizen participation and the future of the EU: An opportunity at the Conference on the Future of Europe

conference-on-the-future-of-europe

Two current phenomena – the cyclical change the EU has entered following Brexit and the outbreak of COVID-19 and the need to improve the participatory mechanisms in liberal democracies – largely explain the launch, at the end of 2020, of the Conference on the future of Europe. We can define this as a large forum which, over more than a year, gives European citizens a channel to express their positions and recommendations on major issues that are already marking the future of the Union and of the entire planet. This is a good opportunity, therefore, for citizen’s to participate in EU debates, which are often accused of being removed from societal realities.

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Unchecked technology, democracies in danger: Beyond fake news

beyond-fake-news

Since the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum, both in 2016, the risk to Western democracies from fake news has been part of the global political debate. But in the twenty-first century, five years of technology is a long time. And the dangers have grown, becoming more sophisticated. While platforms and the authorities barely manage to lessen the spread of fake news on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, new risks are starting to be tangible within the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In 2021, we should no longer trust a video with inflammatory statements from a political leader: it might have been created with AI. And these deep fakes are just one of the manifestations of the phenomenon we find ourselves in. 

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Democracy and social networks: Pluralism without debate

democracy-and-social-networks

Polarisation, discord, lies, distrust… Words that describe the current situation in our democracies, a time of “pluralism without debate” in Bernard Manin’s apt expression. The paradox of our time is that we continue to legitimise liberal democracy on the basis of a moral ideal that is increasingly remote from reality.

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City councils facing the digital transition: Barcelona proposes online delivery tax

online-delivery-tax

The complex debate on taxation of large Internet platforms affects all levels, from the large institutions involved in global governance – such as the G20 and IMF – to city councils in cities that have around two million people, such as Barcelona. For a while now the Catalan city council has been working to implement a tax on home delivery of online purchases. The measure is after an essential objective: to defend the traditional commercial structure and small businesses from the rise of e-commerce, a market dominated by multinational platforms such as Amazon and AliExpress. 

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Europe, facing regulation of the data economy: The dangers of a late, incomplete response

data-economy

The regulatory offensive being done by the European Union with the so-called ‘gatekeepers’ of the digital economy – the large Internet platforms – just might be a before and after in the unbalanced market position these enjoy. However, both the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act ignore a key element in regulating the use and exchange of personal data: an economic calculation of the consumer-digital relationship. 

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Big tech lobbying in Brussels: A lot of money. Too much influence?

big-tech-lobbying

It’s no surprise the Silicon Valley tech giants are paying close attention to regulatory activity in the European Union. As of March 2015, when then-Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced the Digital Single Market, Europe has been setting a distinct profile in its conception of digitalization, a profile that is increasingly uncomfortable for the so-called Big Five or GAFAM – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Some of the issues the Commission is prioritising through the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are potentially very dangerous for the business model of companies like Google and Facebook. And we’re talking about a market of more than 450 million people. 

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Digital Services Act: Google’s aggressive lobbying proves what’s at stake

digital-services-act

The European Union has finalized a draft of its new Digital Services Act (DSA), which, according to all indications, will place restrictions on and control more closely the activity of large technology companies. There is even talk of forcing them to share their data with smaller companies and prohibiting them from applying any kind of preferential treatment for their products on their own platforms. All this is in the midst of a growing debate, also in the United States, about the excessive size and power of these companies and the possibility of forcing them to be split up to restore competition in the markets where they abuse their dominance. 

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Hate on social networks: great power, great responsibility

hate-on-social-networks

Massive anti-racist protests, nearly 150,000 deaths from coronavirus, and an ever-growing social divide, stirred up from the political arena. It is a turbulent time in the United States, and in many of the debates where the country looks itself in the mirror and wonders what is happening, Facebook appears, probably the company that best exemplifies the dynamics of social and commercial communication in the twenty-first century

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