A Happy New Year to you all! After a gap of a few months, we’ve restarted our weekly newsletter to bring you the latest in digital policy from around the world, plus a new week-ahead section. We’re glad to be back – every Monday, this time around.
Our digital policy round-up from last week includes the growing debate (mostly in Europe) on whether Big Tech should contribute to telecoms infrastructure costs and the start of the fourth round of cybersecurity convention discussions at the Ad Hoc Cybercrime Committee. US President Biden doesn’t mince words on the need to hold Big Tech accountable, while Germany has found fault in Google’s data processing practices.
The week ahead will see world leaders convene in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. And on the same forward-looking note, we’ve included a summary of our digital policy predictions for the year.
Stephanie and the Digital Watch team
// INFRASTRUCTURE //
EU plans to ask Big Tech and telecoms: What are your investment plans?
There’s a major debate in the making: The European Commission plans to require Big Tech to pay their share of costs related to the digital infrastructure. The main argument: If Big Tech is reaping tons of profit from the infrastructure, they should help maintain it.
The commission’s plan is to launch a 12-week questionnaire as early as this week, before proposing draft rules. Policymakers are also thinking ahead about the metaverse’s expected increase in data flows and linking this to the demand for Big Tech to contribute to the infrastructure cost.
// CYBERCRIME //
Ad Hoc Cybercrime Committee continues its work
The fourth session of the Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime started last week in Vienna (ongoing till 20 January), with a second reading of some of the provisions in the consolidated negotiating document. One of them is the provision on the criminalisation of offences.
One group of states supports the proposal that the convention be limited to criminalising cyber-enabled and cyber-dependent crimes, while a second group wants to expand the convention’s competence to other offences, including cyberterrorism. We’ll have more on this next week.
// BIG TECH //
US president, German authority tough on Big Tech
US President Joe Biden is urging Congress to ‘pass strong bipartisan legislation to hold Big Tech accountable’. In an op-ed, the President expressed concern ‘about how some in the industry collect, share and exploit our most personal data, deepen extremism and polarization in our country, tilt our economy’s playing field, violate the civil rights of women and minorities, and even put our children at risk.’
Biden is now pushing three priority areas: federal privacy protections, reform to Section 230 of the US’ Communications Decency Act, and competition.
Meanwhile, Germany’s competition authority has ordered Google to revise its data processing terms and practices. ‘Users are not given sufficient choice as to whether and to what extent they agree to this far-reaching processing of their data across services,’ the Bundeskartellamt ruled. ‘The choices offered so far, if any, are, in particular, not sufficiently transparent and too general.’
// CHINA //
China kickstarts implementation of deepfake rules
The Cyberspace Administration of China has started implementing China’s new rules that prohibit the use of AI-generated content for spreading fake news or information deemed disruptive to the economy or national security – a notion which leaves wide room for interpretation.
The rules regulating deep synthesis (deepfake) technology were published in December, after being announced last August. They have now put China at the forefront of regulating deepfake content generated by AI.
// SEMICONDUCTORS //
Dell to stop using chips made in China by 2024
US computer-maker Dell is the latest company to announce it will stop using Chinese-made semiconductor chips. Although the company cited diversification plans without going into detail, it all seems to point to the US’ ongoing crackdown on China’s semiconductor sector.
16–20 Jan: WEF Annual Meeting 2023
All eyes are on one main event this week: The 53rd World Economic Forum’s meeting, taking place in Davos, Switzerland, themed Cooperation in a Fragmented World, and bringing together 50+ heads of state and government and around 600 business leaders and hundreds of other stakeholders.
Why it’s relevant. With the bulk of discussions from Tuesday to Thursday, expect digital policy discussions to take a place alongside conversations on the global economic recession and the spiralling climate crisis.
What to expect. You can expect some well-known policy issues to be discussed, such as, how to leverage 5G, AI, and IoT to drive sustainable transformation and economic growth; how to scale examples of data collaboration for public good internationally; how to mobilise a collective response to safeguard critical assets; and how to better collaborate to tackle disinformation and online harms and build safer digital spaces.
Expect a heavier focus on emerging technologies, with sessions on the anticipated impact of AI’s ability to create new content (think ChatGPT); on lessons learned from implementing central bank digital currencies (expect a heavy presence of central bank heads); and the launch of two publications on the metaverse – one on interoperability, and the other on the consumer-driven metaverse. We’ve grown accustomed to a blue-sky narrative at Davos, but when it comes to quantum technologies, one of the sessions will be asking how close we really are to a true quantum revolution.
Expect some familiar faces from Big Tech – the CEOs of Microsoft, IBM, Dell, Qualcomm, Paypal, and SWIFT will be there – with others notably missing (Facebook, Google, Apple…).
Expect the now-customary warnings from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, plus a strong EU institutional presence, with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen attending with a handful of other commissioners, together with European Parliament chief Roberta Metsola, who will no doubt remind us of the EU single market’s 30th anniversary this year.
Crystal ball or no crystal ball, we’ve been predicting the year ahead for the past 13 years. Here’s our 14th.
1. Technologies: If previous years started with big promises from emerging tech, this year’s more sombre start will finally give existing tech the space to show its real impact beyond mere hype.
2. Digital geopolitics: Amid the relentless geopolitical tensions, there are at least three main digital policy areas where the tensions will play out more intensely: submarine cables and satellites, the production of semiconductors, and the free flow of data. In Europe, expect considerable debate on who should pay for infrastructure costs.
3. It’s a digital moment for India, Brazil, and South Africa: There’s momentum around the three D’s: The IBSA states are all developing economies, functional democracies, and supporters of multilateral diplomacy.
4. Digital cooperation: We’ll see a build-up for 2025 when the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) implementation will be revisited (including the future of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)) and UN cybersecurity discussions will evolve from the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) towards the Programme of Action (PoA).
5. Human rights online: The main challenge is to strengthen the application of existing human rights rules online while charting well-balanced regulations for new areas (such as regulations that encourage ethical neuroscience developments while protecting human dignity and integrity).
6. Content: In 2023, stakeholders will intensify their search for better ways to govern content. Expect countries to apply more pressure on companies through legislative reform (updating Section 230, for instance – see last week’s updates).
7. Cybersecurity: Countries worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia, are increasing their cybersecurity protection. It’s also promising to see UN negotiations on cybersecurity continuing.
8. Digital economy: With an economic recession on the way, there will be less money for the next big tech – whatever it may be. Eyes will be on digital trade, data flows, implementing the new global tax deal, and the regulation of cryptocurrencies.
9. Digital standardisation: Standards will show us that as a soft governance approach, they provide effective alternatives to the lack of multilateral policy agreements.
10. Data governance: We’re finally moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach to conversations on regulating the different types of data, including personal, corporate, public, and health data. India, Japan, and of course, the EU, will be this year’s champions at custom-fit policy.
11. AI governance: ChatGPT raised everyone’s curiosity, but we’ll need to look closer at its impact. The regulatory wave of AI assistance is rising swiftly, too.
12. The future of work: With hybrid becoming the new normal, we’ll be focusing on establishing new routines, procedures, and regulations, from office work to diplomatic negotiations.
Stronger digital voices from Africa: Building African digital foreign policy and diplomacy
As Africa’s digital dynamism grows, its participation in global digital policy must increase. During this transition, African countries have to navigate the geopolitical realities of our times.While most African countries are in the early phase of their digital diplomacy journey, there are many practices and initiatives that could power a faster take-off of digital diplomacy in Africa. We capture these practices and initiatives in Diplo’s latest study from Africa.
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