• On 22 June, Amnesty International, a non-governmental organisation, published a story on Moroccan journalist and human rights defender Omar Radi, whose smartphone was reportedly bugged. Amnesty’s investigation of the case found traces of so-called ‘network injection’—a cyberattack in which an outside actor inserts a program in the target’s device in order to gain access to its content, including email and browsing history.

    Network injection attacks are usually carried out by tricking the target into opening malicious links, often sent via SMS and WhatsApp, which then infect the target’s device with malware. According to Amnesty, the spyware program used in the Radi case was Pegasus, developed by an Israeli firm to track COVID-19 cases in Israel.

    In Israel, this technique is used with full transparency, and amidst a healthy debate on its benefits and drawbacks. However, it’s worth mentioning that the technique itself can, of course, also be used to track and monitor political opponents. This creates a clear and present danger of authoritarian overreach, as witnessed in China and Russia, for example.

    Amnesty accused Moroccan authorities of the attack, a charge which Morocco denied, asking Amnesty for material evidence. As presented by Amnesty, the case itself is a human rights violation due to the use of spyware against a journalist doing his job, since the journalist’s smartphone was tapered with and infected with malware in order to track and survey him.

    But the Omar Radi case also reveals a more significant issue, which deserves to be discussed. And yet, for obvious reasons, it is often hidden and avoided in public. Cybersecurity has become more and more relevant in the past 20 years. This is directly related to the growing combined threats of international terrorism, trafficking, and smuggling, which bedevil relations between Europe and its neighbours.

    The technology at the core of the Radi case (i.e., spyware used to penetrate phones and other forms of electronic communication) is, by nature, multi-faceted. It can (and is) used by friends and foes alike: terrorists, traffickers, and the agencies trying to combat them. Over the years, this technology has progressed and become much more sophisticated, as well as much harder to trace.

    Electronic surveillance is, of course, taking place inside the EU as well, mostly used by state actors. But since the technology has developed and become more user-friendly, it’s also accessible to non-state actors (such as criminal organisations and terrorists). Network injection itself is, in a sense, a ‘tip of the spear technology’ when it comes to tracking technologies. Also, in order to be effective, direct contact with a phone (or some other device) and the network used is necessary.

    It’s hardly a surprise that authorities across the board are keen to embrace such ready-to-use technology that can help keep track of what they consider hostile or politically disruptive individuals and organisations. The line between what constitutes genuinely nefarious and dangerous cases, and what does not, should be easy to draw. However, it sometimes isn’t. Accessibility makes various types of spyware tempting to use, even when it’s not necessary. However, when their use by authorities crosses the line, they often create individual casualties in the process.

    Simultaneously, the very nature of cyber technology such as spyware makes it ripe for clandestine applications, and therefore not necessarily open to a more public debate.

    So, when a case like the Radi one appears, even if it takes place outside the EU, it should be seen as a chance for the Union. It is a chance to discuss and learn from the issue of how cybersecurity, and the technology used to enhance it, ought to be managed, protecting individuals and societies alike, as well as avoiding abuse and malicious overreach.

    The issues at stake are critical for the EU as well, since we do have similar technology (oftentimes purchasing the same software), and the balancing act of individual integrity and societal security is linked across borders. There is to date no common EU policy towards these issues. That needs to change, and a way to start is to address the difficult problems tied to integrity and security on an EU-wide level.

    Credits: Image by geralt on Pixabay

    Magnus Norell Innovation Internet Security Technology

    Magnus Norell

    Cybersecurity technology roams unsupervised. Here’s why that needs to change


    20 Jul 2020

  • Looking back over time, we can see that the Information Age has made our economies and our society knowledge-driven; our main drivers of growth have become based on pushing bits up and down (digital services) and on connectivity improvements which have made delivering those bits quicker, and ubiquitous, all throughout the world. In sum, we are assembling the “space shuttle” for globalisation.

    In today’s world, the biggest transport company doesn’t own a single car. The foremost house rental company doesn’t own a single house or apartment. The space race is being carried out not by state agencies but by energy, automotive and online payment companies (SpaceX founded by Elon Musk), by a company that started as a record shop (Virgin Galactic, founded by Sir Richard Branson) and even by the world’s biggest retail company (Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos).

    The car industry is being challenged by Internet companies which have yet to produce a single car. Recently, an Internet/TV company went global, disrupting the TV industry’s decades-long reign. Trade is global, companies are going global; the workforce and talent pool are becoming more and more global as well.

    In the time since we have unleashed the information society, our economies have undergone incredible transformation, causing me to wonder, “Are we taking this transformation seriously?” I don’t think so.

    Our so-called modern societies, democracies, governments and institutions are still not organised with an agile mindset that will enable them to engage in decision-making and policy-making that is able to cope with such transformation and speed. The way we think and govern this transformation is still rooted in a sectoral approach, not focused or centred on the citizen.

    Governments, politicians and institutions should give to digital policies the same weight, the same holistic approach which they do for those dealing with education, health, social issues, the economy and even foreign affairs and defence.

    We fail to consider how the digital transformation is being disseminated horizontally, economically and across sectors (e.g. in education, health, manufacturing, farming, etc.) and how vertically it is impacting our society.

    The Internet has become the veins of the modern economy and of modern society — and data the lifeblood within, rendering cyberspace analogous to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for every middle-aged or older politician.

    The Good, because it has brought about increases in productivity and therefore growth; the Bad, because it has increased inequality and has apparently led to lower incomes and to the erosion of low-skilled jobs; and the Ugly, because it has been regarded as an unruly space facilitating cyberattacks, fake news and terrorism.

    We must then prepare our society and institutions for the radical change that is underway. Governments, politicians and institutions should give to digital policies the same weight, the same holistic approach which they do for those dealing with education, health, social issues, the economy and even foreign affairs and defence.

    At EU level, this Commission (EC) has built a political structure to underpin the Digital Single Market (DSM) for concentrating efforts on the market dimension horizontally. Still lacking, however, is proper coordination or structure on cyber-diplomacy in order to address and promote a values-based and a rules-based global cyberspace — an EU Digital Ambassador is needed.

    In the European Parliament (EP), digital affairs are done either in the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee or in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO). But due to the cross-sector nature of the digital files, some files end up having five committees involved. This brings slowness and lack of agility on delivering pieces of legislation: a Digital Affairs Committee is badly needed!

    In the Council of the EU (Council), whilst digital files are discussed in the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council configuration (TTE) and in the Competitiveness Council configuration (COMPET), most of these files end up being dealt with in more than just one Council configuration, within the framework of a particular sector, thus losing the horizontal vision needed in the digital transformation. Here, and again, it’s about time to devise a Digital Affairs Council.

    A Digital Affairs Council would bring together a specially designated digital minister from every Member State, who would address the “digital present” but also devise a borderless and human-centred digital future. A digital minister would enable its Member State to no longer regard the digital realm merely as a sector, framed within his country’s own borders.

    As a matter of fact, with digitalisation taking place in every sector, citizens will also be equally demanding toward their respective Member States, either in terms of “public” services or public policies: soon, domestic policies will have to deal with algorithms and the virtual world as well. 

    Concerns over privacy must be addressed, as do other recent phenomena, such as cyberbullying and online behaviour. We should be looking at how new digital technologies are re-shaping the family structure as we have traditionally conceived it, at how they are affecting our sense of time, our critical-thinking capacity to evaluate information and our standards of knowledge themselves — which are fundamentally changing our perceptions of the world. Before long, we should be questioning which values we want to preserve and nurture in a society that is turning digital.

    New generations born in a hyper-connected world will hardly understand the concepts of borders or sovereignty — even the languages which are seen by today’s generations as barriers will be transformed by technology into enablers. We need to cope with their aim for flexibility — working from anywhere to reach everyone in the world.

    It’s being said that globalisation and digitalisation are destroying jobs — or at least destroying more than they create. I’m not fully convinced of this; I believe there will be changes in jobs rather than losses: changes, for example, from low-skilled to high-skilled work.

    Governments should thus be preparing society for a massive movement of workers from one profession to another, putting the right employment and social policies in place to incentivise workers, and encouraging the private sector to invest more in skilling, up-skilling and re-skilling human capital.

    In the same way, discussions have started to appear regarding what some call “the negative effects of automation”. The ideas range from Universal Basic Income to taxing robots, although the point remains valid that “there is no single magic bullet for poverty” and inequality. But these tools can be valuable instruments when contextualised within a broader strategy — such as an education, fiscal and social reform — and targeted such as to maximise effectiveness.

    We need to prepare future generations for jobs that don’t yet exist. For this, deep reform of our educational systems is of the utmost importance. Kids should master creativity, critical thinking, communications and adaptability. Throughout their lives, they will have to face a world in rapid and constant change, in which their ability to adapt to this change will be key to surviving. We must nurture a natural process of learning, unlearning and relearning.

    Quick adaptability to change, therefore, is key to success, be it at EU level or Member State level, in the public or the private sector, or even at the level of the individual. 

    Gonçalo Carriço Business Economy Innovation Internet Technology

    Gonçalo Carriço

    Are we prepared for the digital transformation?


    22 Jul 2017

  • A recent Guardian ICM opinion poll showed a fascinating difference between the views of participants in phone and online surveys regarding the upcoming EU referendum. Both were relatively divisive, only on different sides of the debate: those polled over the phone were eight percentage points more likely to vote to remain the in EU (47 to 39) whilst voters that contributed to the online poll were four points more likely to leave (47:43).

    A range of reasons for this split could exist, but it is a scenario that those of us close to online political campaigning have long foreseen.

    For anybody visiting social media platforms to analyse or involve themselves in the debate on Scottish independence, for example, the online reality provided a vastly different message to the one given by traditional polling: strongly in favour of leaving (or dissolving, depending on your point of view) the United Kingdom – a study I ran in August 2014 attributed approximately 90% of all public social media mentions of the referendum to supporters of independence.

    Analysis of the online debate on the EU referendum reveals a similar, yet more dramatic pattern to that underscored by the Guardian ICM poll.

    The visual in Figure 1 shows the structure of the referendum debate on UK Twitter during the second week of May. The network graph shows the inter-connectivity of the 1000 most influential tweeters in the United Kingdom that discussed the referendum in a variety of ways in the week commencing May 9 (hashtags, responding to campaign accounts, longer form mentions of the referendum or simply expressing views to leave or remain).

    Each node (dot) is a Twitter account and each edge (line) is a connection between them. Connections are conversational, rather than a simple look at who follows or @mentions whom, so show retweets, responses and quoted statuses. A full description of the network map is available here.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    The bulb-shaped cluster to the right of the map is almost exclusively made up of Twitter users strongly in favour of leaving the EU, whilst the strands to the left are largely accounts supportive of Remain. We can also quickly see that the Leave side of the network is both multi-faceted and tightly clustered: the multiple colours show that several sub-networks exist within this conversation, whilst the high density graph shows that the accounts are highly likely to engage directly with one another.

    The largest, most central node on the leave side (red, with thick links to other accounts) is Vote Leave (@vote_leave), perhaps to be expected, whilst the large node to the left of Vote Leave is campaigner Dr Rachel Joyce (@racheljoyce). The latter has only 3,638 followers (at the time of writing) but is crucial to the integrity of this specific conversational network, bringing otherwise disparate accounts together in the debate.

    The strands to the left are held together by two large nodes: Stronger In (@StrongerIn, top) and “British and European” (@polnyypesets, bottom). As on the Leave side, @polnyypesets is not an obvious agent of this debate with just 2,857 followers, but is central to networked discussion.

    Interestingly, the structure of this Twitter debate has changed little since we ran the same analysis a few weeks previously. Figure 2 shows the network graph of the referendum debate at the end of March.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    The shape is the same: largely pro-Brexit accounts dominating the online noise, whilst Remain supporters inhabit the fringes. Twitter accounts on both sides however, are linked in places, occasionally by media or polling accounts but more often by tweeters engaging in active debate.

    A key reason for the centrality of @polnyypesets in the network is that the account converses with both sides, providing a bridge between Remain and Leave (albeit having closer links to Remain, hence its location in the network).

    When we compare the EU referendum map to the factional, scattered network map of the European political parties (EPP, PES, ALDE etc) during the 2014 Spitzenkandidat race within the European Parliament election (figure 3) we see far higher levels of bipartisan discussion.

    In figure 3, each cluster is dominated by official campaign messaging by the European parties, with few connections between rival camps.

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    The crucial difference between figures 1 and 2 involves the maps’ density. Edges linking Twitter accounts are thinner, meaning fewer interactions between these people, whilst clustering of the map in general is less dense, meaning that fewer of these accounts were conversing with others in March. Bluntly, the online conversation has stepped up, accounts in the EU referendum debate have become more active and conversations between influencers more common.

    Figure 4

    Figure 4 below shows the volume of public social media mentions per week in the UK about the referendum, and the number of unique authors in the discussion (source: Brandwatch). Contributors on both sides are posting more frequently.

    Figure 4

    Reasons for the domination of the online debate by Leave advocates can be discussed at length. We may point to a more disparate coalition of groups of the pro-Brexit side in addition to the official Vote Leave campaign, or to an anti-establishment, anti-status quo sentiment of online discussion more broadly.

    And whilst this cannot be considered in the same vein as traditional polling as an indicator of the eventual result, its importance should not be underestimated. For the undecided voter that turns to online platforms for guidance or verification of whatever facts exist on either side, this is what they will encounter.

    Similarly, the noisy, crowded nature of this discussion highlights the importance of careful navigation and accurate targeting of the right content, to the right voters and the right times, particularly for those encouraging Remain and the official Stronger In campaign.

    Whilst the overall structure of the campaign shouldn’t necessarily be of concern to Stronger In, it further highlights that directing messages demographically or geographically is no longer adequate or necessary, and that it is possible to cut through the noise by engaging a relatively small set of influencers.

    With less than a month until the vote, understanding the changing nature of this debate structure is crucial to both sides.

    With the issue of Turkish accession to the EU entering the campaign in earnest last weekend, and with Sadiq Khan and City Hall diving into the campaign to actively promote Remain in the following days, network graphs provide an excellent way of understanding the impact and prevalence of such messaging, and which accounts are influential within this morass. This series aims to understand some of those facets over the upcoming weeks.

    This blogpost is the first from an Ogilvy London series analysing the online EU referendum debate from a variety of angles in the weeks before the vote on June 23. You can read the original blogpost here

    Gareth Ham Elections EU Member States European Union Internet

    Gareth Ham

    The online debate around the EU referendum: should Remainers be concerned?


    13 Jun 2016

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime has taken control of the traditional media in Russia: TV, radio and newspapers. As Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has stated, the Kremlin sees the mass media as a ‘weapon’.

    Now Russia’s leadership is trying to take control of social media too, and for this massive operation a new information warfare tool has been mobilised—an army of fake social media Putin-fans, known as ‘trolls’.

    My investigation has discovered that coordinated social media propaganda writers are twisting and manipulating the public debate in Finland, too. Trolls and bots distribute vast amounts of false information in various languages, and target individual citizens for aggressive operations.

    Aggressive trolls have created a feeling of fear among some of my interviewees, causing them to stop making Russia-related comments online. Trolling has had a serious impact on freedom of speech, even outside Russia.

    Thus, it should be viewed as a national security threat that needs to be addressed accordingly. The question is: how should the Kremlin’s trolls and disinformation be countered?

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jessikka Aro Defence EU-Russia Internet Security Technology

    Jessikka Aro

    The cyberspace war: propaganda and trolling as warfare tools


    12 May 2016

  • The security threats Europe is now facing, such as hybrid warfare, propaganda campaigns and information warfare, frequently include a digital dimension. At the same time, digital tools offer an immense potential for change in the European neighbourhood, not least in their ability to equip and inspire pro-democracy protesters, particularly those facing a repressive security apparatus.

    Digital policy cannot therefore become an afterthought but needs to be deeply integrated into Europe’s foreign policy and diplomatic efforts. Furthermore, the US’s long-held Internet hegemony is beginning to fade, placing the EU in a good position to lead global Internet governance initiatives and ensure that they develop along open and liberal lines.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Łukasz Antoni Król Foreign Policy Internet Neighbourhood Policy Security Technology

    Łukasz Antoni Król

    Digital foreign policy: how digital tools can further Europe’s foreign policy goals


    12 Apr 2016

  • A lot has been said about the impact of the digital world on science, technology and the entertainment industry. However, little attention has been paid to innovation—or lack thereof—in the political system. This article argues that the political system is out of sync with the times. It explores the causes of this and proposes some avenues for institutional innovation. The aim is not to propose a solution or a roadmap. Rather, it is to ask the questions that need to be asked and push the boundaries in terms of what could be done, all in the hope of moving the debate forward.

    The Internet is bringing about a seachange in how citizens expect to be represented. Governments, however, are unable to keep up with the changes that it has provoked in our societies. The world changes by the second, and yet our governments are still only receiving citizen input every two, four or five years, depending on the system. Modern democracies are based on information technology that is five hundred years old, the printing press.

    With this information technology, the best possible system that could be designed was one whereby a few make daily decisions for the many, and the many vote on who represents them once every few years. Long-term representation made sense at a time when citizens could not participate in the decision-making process. This was not physically possible, nor did the citizens have access to the information required to make informed decisions.

    One could argue that, in the eighteenth century, someone like John Adams knew pretty much everything there was to know about running a country, but that is far from true today. The increased complexity of the issues we face, from climate change to the global financial markets, makes it impossible for our representatives to come up with innovative and long-term solutions on their own. We are in the middle of a global crisis of representation. Governments simply do not seem to be able to respond to the demands of our rapidly changing society.

    Technological connectivity has multiplied access to and circulation of information at a very low cost. Conversations that used to be one-to-many have become many-to-many. The Internet has the potential to transform us all into producers as well as consumers of information, and we can now participate remotely in any global conversation.

    Read for FREE the full article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Pia Mancini Innovation Internet Political Parties Technology

    Pia Mancini

    Why it is time to redesign our political system


    09 Sep 2015

  • Engagement, involvement and empowerment—these are the political buzzwords often linked to modern forms of participation via the Internet. For many citizens the Internet has emerged as an indispensable medium that provides powerful digital tools for learning, networking and communication. Since the Internet is open and transparent, it easily facilitates collaborative action in innumerable respects. As a result, Internet users generally benefit from shared information that is local, bottom-up and easily accessible worldwide.

    Because of these characteristics, many civil rights campaigners, political commentators and politicians have been calling for a stronger role for the Internet in formal politics and the formation of political opinion. According to their reasoning, e-participation—that is, a greater use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in governance and law-making—encourages more people to engage in political processes, helps to overcome prevailing democratic deficits and increases trust in politicians and governments.

    Most EU member states already employ various e-participation tools, which help to facilitate public policymaking at local, regional and federal levels. E-voting tools, e-petitions, online stakeholder surveys and online public consultations are frequently applied to involve citizens in political decision-making. At the EU level, the European Commission and the European Parliament have incorporated similar tools to encourage citizen ownership and inclusion.

    For EU institutions, online public consultations represent a key tool for transparent and accountable policymaking. By means of online questionnaires, both the European Parliament and the Commission aim to encourage multiple stakeholders to provide input on legislative processes in ways that go beyond traditional consultations, which are sometimes aimed exclusively at stakeholders. The EU explicitly aims to give ordinary citizens, civil society organisations and other organised interests the opportunity to express their opinions.

    Read the full FREE article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Matthias Bauer Internet Trade Transatlantic

    Matthias Bauer

    Campaign-triggered mass collaboration in the EU’s online consultations: the ISDS in TTIP


    09 Sep 2015

  • Many current societal trends seem to be working against party-based democracy. A major decline in the membership of political parties has long been observed. Similarly, voter participation in elections, of all types, has fallen. As a result, the need for the renewal of political parties has become prominent in public discourse. Almost ironically, while democracy and the values it presents are still considered of high importance, public perception of political parties and institutions is rather negative.

    Party politics is seen by many as a necessary evil. Yet, political parties are an essential part of a well-functioning democratic system, as democracy is a universal value and the democratic system undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of Western civilisation.

    Political parties and their structures evolved when society was fundamentally different—mostly in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century—and the origins of our current modern parliamentary systems can be dated to almost 350 years ago. In today’s world, the environment in which political parties find themselves operating has fundamentally changed.

    Globalisation, through the digital communications revolution, has changed how society is structured, how individuals work and how they communicate. However, parliamentary democracy as a system remains largely unchanged, and the same is true of political parties.

    To what extent can one expect political parties to renew themselves and to better respond to current societal challenges? Is such an adaptation even possible without the evolution of the political system which includes the democratic and state institutions?

    In order to answer these questions, one must understand the changes in the political environment, analyse the changing dynamics between different political actors, and understand the global trends affecting political parties on the national and local level.

    A new environment for political parties: fragmentation, globalisation and changing societal dynamics

    The traditional left–right divide in party politics was based on clear divisions in society which largely no longer exist. Large segments of society are fragmented and this means that the major political platforms of the past are now being challenged or are no longer functioning. Fragmentation is the new norm in politics and parliaments. In recent years supporters within parties have coalesced politically while moving ever further away from the supporters of other parties.

    This phenomenon is very visible in the US, but it is also present in Europe. The result is that party politics has become increasingly polarised on both sides of the Atlantic. This polarisation makes compromise, and thereby effective governance, more difficult. Voter volatility, decreasing credibility and the corrosion of party loyalties have become normal in European party politics.

    Read for FREE the full article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Tomi Huhtanen Democracy Internet Party Structures Political Parties

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Can political parties evolve if the political system does not?


    08 Sep 2015

  • German MEP Andreas Schwab has recently introduced into the European Parliament a resolution on the creation of a digital single market where, amongst others, Parliament asks the Commission to check the possibility of the unbundling of search engines. Schwab, a Member of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, is determined to create a fair and open digital single market in the EU but so far “we lack a level playing field”.

    Mr Schwab, why have you been engaged with this resolution on the issue of the digital single market?

    Without any doubt, new technologies and the digitalisation of life offer a lot of opportunities, but there are also risks. We want to make sure that these opportunities are available to all citizens – and they should abide by the same general rules as the existing “old” single market. It is our task, as representatives of the European citizens, to create trust and to ensure that as many customers and companies as possible benefit from the new technological advances. At the same time, we have to guarantee that the European door for innovative services is wide open – irrespective of whether those services come from the Far East, the United States or Europe itself.

    What problems does this resolution seek to address?

    The resolution takes a closer look at the large range of policy areas that we need to bring coherently together if we want to create a truly open and transparent digital market in the EU. This is why this resolution addresses fields such as cyber-security, data protection, roaming and net neutrality and also the fact that users are often paying with their data – without being aware of it. Another mentioned area is the search engines market, where there is the increasing danger that certain search results are displayed with greater visibility than others in the web search.

    Search engines even often privilege their own services in the results at the expense of their competitors. The major problem with this is that the consumers assume that the best result appears always on top of their search and not that result which the search engine has chosen to be on top. This is why we’ve asked the European Commission to consider all available options to ensure remedies that benefit internet users and online businesses.

    What other aspects do you want to have underlined with the resolution?

    The EU has to perform what one might call a “gate keeper role”. A free digital single market facilitates innovative business models. Online companies not only need access to big data, but also need a certain level of freedom to remain creative. At the same time, we need fair and open conditions and for this a whole range of aspects have to be improved by harmonising existing standards in the EU, for example. Privacy, roaming costs, net neutrality, broadband network expansion and the protection of intellectual property are the most urgent aspects we need to work on.

    Another example is the portability of internet services. Why is it not always possible to transfer the music a customer has bought digitally from one smart phone to another? This needs to be addressed as well. These examples show that the existing rules and standards do not suffice anymore, and therefore need to be changed or extended. In this context we also welcome the proposal made by national cartel offices for a deeper examination of the big data market.  

    For four years the European Commission has been examining the possible monopoly of Google. In the perception of many European citizens nothing has happened. Does the Commission lag behind reality?

    It’s correct to say that investigations in newly developed markets, like the digital area, are taking more time than “normal” cases. Therefore, we have to give the European Commission enough time to deal with the anti-trust cases in an appropriate manner. More critical is what I’ve mentioned before, namely that there is a lack of a fair level playing field to create a flourishing digital single market in the EU.

    Google as the biggest search engine in Europe is accused of unfair competitive advantages. Do Twitter or Facebook business models contain similarly unfair practices?       

    The online social networking services follow a business model that many consumers are actually not aware of. These commercial services are mostly for free, but the consumers provide personal data in exchange for the service and the company can make money with that data in the end. These practices are in line with the law and our market economy. However, it starts to be problematic for free and fair market where companies with a far too dominant market position are incorrectly perceived as generally acknowledged service providers.

    This is, in particular, an increasing danger for search engines like Google that dominates more than 90 per cent of the European search market. In line with aspects of President Jean-Claude Juncker’s plans as already proclaimed during the Parliament’s election campaign, the resolution calls for concrete answers. They are however particularly difficult to find as we haven’t got the right tools for the digital economy yet. Now we are looking forward to hearing Commissioner Oettinger and Vice President Ansip’s proposals in this matter in 2015. Of course, there is no simple solution to this task, but I am confident that we will find the right answers.

    Interview by Simon Forster

    Internet Technology

    Taking on Google: “We haven’t got the right tools for the digital economy yet”

    Other News

    26 Jan 2015

  • Karl Marx wasn’t wrong on everything. Take his famous dictum about history repeating itself: The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. If 2003 was a transatlantic tragedy, with the open rift within the West about the Iraq War, then 2013, with its revelations of American data mining and spying on allies, and the ensuing European shock and anger, risks becoming the year of a transatlantic farce.

    Again, European atlanticists look stupid – poodles to the US, so to speak. Again, and even more ominously, resentment against America has become a tool of European politics: witness the German Social Democrats’ blatant attempts (http://ces.tc/14XJ2mS) to paint Chancellor Merkel as too docile vis-à-vis American unilateralism. The pictures showing her smiling next to Barack Obama in Berlin, two weeks ago still an asset, suddenly have become a liability in her re-election bid.

    Nevertheless, this is not 2003 – the main reason being that Europe’s relative weight in the transatlantic relationship has actually further declined over the last ten years: both militarily and economically. Militarily, the United States is – rightly or wrongly – withdrawing its last major combat units from Europe while Europeans compete in cutting their defence budgets to record lows. And they show very little willingness to shoulder any major new security burden. Economically, the US is now moving out of the crisis while Europe seems mired in stagnation, with dwindling exports, low competitiveness and a mountain of over-regulation. America is busily exploring shale gas, thereby creating windfall profits as well as reducing its energy dependence – while Europeans are dragging their feet over shale gas and thus risk missing out on cheap energy and less dependence on Russia.

    Now we know that in 2003, the US also believed it could get on without the (West) Europeans. Or without anybody else, for that matter – after all, the term unilateralism was then born in reference to a White House allegedly in the grip of neocon ideology. But that mood changed very quickly in Washington, where the second George W. Bush administration became very cooperative with all Europeans – much more so than Obama’s America ‘pivoting’ towards Asia.

    So where does this leave us atlanticists in the days of transatlantic spying and data mining? Three major truths come to mind:

    First, most transatlantic spying is done jointly, not against each other. And it is important to keep the data mining apart from the eavesdropping. Data mining in private communication, according to all we know today, is also done by the French and British intelligence services, and the German authorities were at least informed about some of the NSA’s activities. After all, some spectacular successes of European services against would-be terrorists, such as Germany’s preventing the ‘Sauerland’ gang (http://ces.tc/12fEIkj) from killing hundreds in 2007, were already then explained by US services having used telephone and internet data.

    Hence, there is no reason for Europeans to be particularly morally outraged about Snowden’s revelations. On the other hand, the scope of the snooping on the internet will be open for debate. Everyone in this debate subscribes to the need to find the right balance between privacy and security. No one can claim to have found the perfect solution. And as to the spying on allies: while we still have to learn about its actual scope – it is clear that diplomats always have to envisage that others will try to get hold of their secrets – even friends. In the EU institutions, with the lax attitude to secrecy and some Member States’ tendency to leak documents, it usually doesn’t take listening bugs or malware for others to find out what the European External Action Service or the Commission are up to.

    Second, are trade talks such as TTIP the appropriate framework to hit back in anger? – No, because that would be self-defeating on a large scale. Due to the growing transatlantic asymmetry, and because of Europe’s dire need to increase its own potentials for growth, it has very little leverage through suspending or dragging out the negotiations. They will be hard enough from now on, in any case. To open up US public procurement, for example, or for Europeans to accept importing genetically manufactured organisms (GMOs), will require protracted domestic battles on either side. And, of course, discussing digital services in the TTIP framework will be a good opportunity to speak about privacy and security. But that would also presuppose having a digital single market in the EU – which is not in sight at the moment. All this means that the talks must go on now. Transatlantic differences in the digital field can be resolved in due time.

    Third, it is time to develop a more realistic atlanticism (http://ces.tc/14XJhyc) : That includes being a bit more open about the dilemmas of freedom and security in the age of global terrorism. Some of the transatlantic rhetoric about the freedom of the individual as a core value of the West will sound hollow if we don’t more openly redefine it for the 21st century. There will have to be more exceptions to fundamental rights if we want to preserve them at all. If we pay attention to that, then 2013 does not have to become the year of the transatlantic farce.

    Roland Freudenstein Foreign Policy Internet Trade Transatlantic

    Roland Freudenstein

    Transatlantic relations need more realism – not more hysteria


    08 Jul 2013

  • The new dimension created by the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provides a clear business opportunity for small and medium sized enterprises in the European Union, which should be taken as a formula to create jobs and boost business competitiveness.

    At present, the possibilities offered by newly created tools such as cloud computing enable European SMEs to have an opportunity to grow that needs to be promoted by the EU institutions.

    Cloud computing is a new technology tool that allows businesses to access a catalogue of services. It also allows businesses to respond to their needs in a flexible manner and enable them to adapt to the demands of the moment, paying only for what they need to consume at any given point. Cloud computing also increases the number of network-based services, enabling providers to operate in a faster and more efficient manner. Finally, these benefits come with an optimisation of costs and a guarantee that the service will remain secure.

    The European Union must make a firm commitment to further the use of this valuable tool., As my colleague MEP and President of the European Internet Foundation, Pilar del Castillo points out, cloud computing offers a unique opportunity to spur economic growth and boost employment. Studies have concluded that fully implementing this tool could generate an estimated 3.8 million new jobs in the EU in the framework of the Horizon 2020 Programme.

    Besides promoting job creation and innovation, and contributing to increased productivity and competitiveness, cloud computing has tremendous potential in terms of cost savings of ICT. It will also act to boost the development of the digital single market.

    Data protection regulations must be adapted in order to accommodate this new technology and, at the same time secure and strengthen consumer confidence.

    On the other hand, the fragmentation of the Digital Single Market should no longer be one of the outstanding issues, in order for cloud computing to realise its full potential.

    In order to carry out these actions, we need the support of the EU to continue to promote access to new technological innovations including the deployment of High Speed broadband in Europe or the achievement of other initiatives already underway, such as the Galileo program of the European Commission for the development of the European satellite navigation.

    Pablo Zalba Growth Innovation Internet

    Pablo Zalba

    The cloud: a business opportunity for EU SMEs


    09 Apr 2013

  • The aim of the current In Brief is to explore the possible disinformation threats in view of the European elections in May 2019. European voters are exposed to similar negative narratives and strategic disinformation campaigns which managed to influence a large number of citizens in the run-up of the US Presidential election and UK European Union membership referendum in 2016. The analysis also explores ways to tackle future malign information operations by proposing  specific  policy  recommendations  for strengthening the European and national institutional capacity and also obliging digital companies  to  improve  their  efforts  in  the  fight against disinformation. 

    Elections EU Institutions EU Member States Internet Technology

    European Parliament Elections: the Disinformation Challenge


    24 May 2019

  • The information space that is used by voters, politicians and interest groups in Western nations is being contested and challenged by new risks and threats, both from within and from without. The aim of this report is to identify some of the main vulnerabilities with respect to current forms of political subversion, and to propose a set of policy principles to guide ongoing reflections on how best to respond to that challenge.

    Four areas of vulnerability are identified, namely individualised political messaging, group dynamics and political polarisation, platform algorithms and self-radicalisation, and falsehood dissemination dynamics. This leads to the formulation of four proposed policy principles, followed by a discussion of the extent to which recent measures, in selected Western nations and at EU level, are sufficient to address the challenge at hand.

    Democracy Elections Internet Technology

    Political Subversion in the Age of Social Media

    Policy Briefs

    22 Oct 2018

  • Itʹs official. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has started to apply directly in all member states with the aim of safeguarding the processing of personal data of all natural persons within the European Union. The Regulation is seen as the most comprehensive ‘upgrade’ of data protection rules over the last two decades as it repeals Directive 95/46/EC enacted in the distant 1995. GDPR standardises and strengthens citizensʹ rights when it comes to collecting and  processing  personal  data  while  also  empowering national data protection authorities to supervise this new ambitious framework, by enhancing  their  responsibilities  and  ensuring  the possibility of heavy fines at their disposal. European and global businesses (big and small) had two years to adapt to the new onerous requirements  which  demanded  administrative,  technical and even strategic changes in the way they operate. The following In Brief aims to highlight the essence of the Regulationʹs 99 Articles and analyse the potential impact of GDPR on both users and business.

    Business Ethics Internet Technology

    The Impact of GDPR on Users and Business: The Good, The Bad and the Uncertain


    05 Jun 2018

  • This paper analyses the unstoppable phenomenon of globalisation through the lens of cyberspace. It looks at how the threats associated with this domain could evolve into a cyberwar. The paper assesses the EU’s stance on cyberspace and elaborates the directions that the EU should develop and pursue in this regard.

    It begins by examining the meaning of various cyber-related terms as a way of explaining the risks, threats and challenges of cyberspace. It then goes on to detail the EU’s approach to cyberspace. The paper concludes by outlining a way to increase the EU’s cyber-defence capacity and scope through the creation of an EU cyber-command that would centrally coordinate operational capacity in cyberspace in order to pursue the development of hard and offensive cyber-power.

    Finally, the paper also builds on the European People’s Party’s (EPP’s) call for strengthened resilience against cyberwar and offers a suggestion for an EU response to hybrid warfare and cyberwar, as outlined in the EPP’s Congress document Europe Secures Our Future

    Defence Globalisation Internet

    Cyber-Defence: Strengthening the EU’s Resilience in the Virtual Domain


    29 Aug 2017

  • Social media are becoming the dominant source of information for significant parts of our societies. There are numerous positive aspects of these media, such as their ability to mobilise for a political cause and how they enable greater and quicker flows of ideas across societies.

    This paper focuses on those aspects of social media that negatively affect the public debate, such as the spreading of fake news and the creation of ‘echo chambers’ of like-minded users who become isolated from alternative opinions. The paper proposes that social media platforms should be considered media companies and that they should be regulated by modified versions of existing press laws, adapted to suit the new technology.

    The creation of a ‘notice and correct’ procedure, as it is tentatively called, would provide an effective tool to stop lies from spreading, allowing affected parties, public or private, to protect their rights. By making the social media platforms jointly responsible for the content they publish, governments would create the right incentives for companies to adapt their business models and modify the construction of their algorithms and policies.

    The paper outlines how such a procedure could function without constricting the freedom of speech. Finally, the paper stresses the improvement of e-literacy as an additional, viable and long-term solution to the problem of fake news.

    Ethics Industry Internet Technology Values

    Weeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation

    Research Papers

    11 Jul 2017

  • In the early 2000s, it appeared that the European Union would continue to lead the world in telecommunications. It accounted for the largest share of private investment in telecommunications infrastructure; it had six handset manufacturers accounting for more than half of the world’s phones; and a continental agreement on 3G/UMTS which became  the  global  mobile  standard.  

    But  the  EU’s  lead  was  short  lived. Instead the US and Asia emerged. Today there are no more European handset  manufacturers. 4G  eclipsed  3G. The  US  is  on  track  to have half of all its mobile broadband subscriptions as 4G by the end of 2016, while  Europe  will  struggle to reach 30 percent. There is over €100 billion of additional investment required to achieve the Commission’s Digital Agenda goals.

    This note examines the reasons behind the EU’s decline in global telecommunications leadership, notably a confused approach to telecom regulation and a regulatory framework which actually deters European enterprises from investment and innovation. 3 solutions are proposed to help close the gap in investment and to strengthen European enterprises so that they can invest/innovate and stimulate the demand for digital services. 

    These solutions are:

    1. Removal of obsolete regulation on specific industries in favour of a general competition approach;

    2. Update the competition framework to recognise the dynamic effect of digitally converged industries

    3. Encourage public sector institutions to digitise as a means to help lagging European nations adopt the internet and achieve Digital Single Market (DSM) goals.

    European Union Innovation Internet Macroeconomics Technology

    Telecoms Investment: 3 Steps to Create a Broadband Infrastructure for a Digital Europe


    07 Sep 2016

  • Most, if not all, economic transactions are digitized to some degree. Most, although not all, enterprises use digital technology in some part of their business. Many, though still far too few, people use digital technology to make their lives richer and easier in everything from shopping and online banking to online dating or streaming music and films.

    Accordingly, it is becoming increasingly hard to separate the digital economy from the non-digital one. Rather, the digital economy is the new economy, and the ambition to establish a European Digital Single Market (DSM) is the aspiration to realize an improved single market that makes use of new technologies. This is what makes fulfilling this goal both extremely complicated and very simple.

    Rather than a bombastic revolution, digitization has been a silent, low key integration process moving horizontally through our economy and society. That is, until now. We have now reached a critical point, having realized that digitization has been embedded into most, if not all, parts of our lives.

    Accordingly, a lot is changing as new technologies are no longer just being used to do things the way they have always been done, but also to do things in completely new ways. The song has been separated from the CD, bloggers compete with journalists, a mobile gaming company is worth more than a car manufacturer and our cities are being transformed by apps. Times are changing.

    Based on our examination of the process of digitization and digital market integration in Europe, we highlight five specific policy issues that are crucial to promoting a lasting digital economy in Europe. 

    These areas include the need for harmonized regulation; making data borderless and data flows seamless,  promoting regional, bottom-up, controlled experimental policy initiatives; growing urban digital markets where digitization and density accelerate innovation, and establishing an open, coherent framework for data ownership with regard to privacy, personal data and metadata.

    In particular, we highlight urban digital markets as a unique opportunity for the EU (and member states) to improve the policy response to digital and disruptive entrepreneurship.  Used properly, these markets can generate substantial growth and innovation while aiding the transition to a sustainable and world leading European Digital Economy.  A rewired Europe fit and able to compete in the 21st century global economy.

    EU Member States Innovation Internet Technology

    Rewiring Europe: Five Priorities for a Lasting Digital Economy

    Research Papers

    29 Jun 2016

  • The appearance of political marketing and campaigning on social media is a relatively new phenomenon, which was first introduced in the US before spreading to Europe. The importance of online political marketing can be seen in, among other factors, the major advantages offered by the Internet—namely the rapid transmission of information and the possibilities for large numbers of people to connect. This is especially significant for politics on the EU level, which embraces a body of 375 million voters. Despite the fact that not everyone uses the Internet in Europe, the percentage of those who do is considered to be high enough for its application in politics.

    The goal of this paper is to examine the connection between European politics, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the use of social media, and to give suggestions on how the use of social media in political marketing could be further advanced. This paper starts with an explanation of what political marketing is and how it is used in politics. It explains the relevance of the theme of this paper, in the context of the lack of political legitimacy in the European Union and the low turnout in the European Parliament (EP) elections, and discusses the possible reasons for these.

    The paper then describes the growth of the use of the Internet, its influence on everyday life and its connection to politics. The paper then describes European Parliament elections and the fall in voter turnout (not only in the EU, but also at the national level). It then focuses on the growing use of the Internet in society – at the first place in electoral campaigns, although we have seen lately its application in social movements (e.g. the Middle Eastern and North African revolutions, political protests, the anti-ACTA campaign, the political riots in the UK, etc.).

    The conclusions suggest that, although present on the main social media websites (such as Facebook and Twitter), politicians and campaign managers in Europe need to further develop their use of this type of communication in order to find the right approach for European citizens. While campaign managers and advisors are mostly aware of the advantages the Internet brings to the field of political marketing, understanding of the phenomenon needs to be further developed among politicians.

    The paper recommends greater use of social media for the creation of stronger bonds between politicians and citizens in Europe, which could improve electoral participation and consequently contribute to overcoming citizens’ apathy and the lack of democracy at the EU level. Social media sites could be used to mobilise a larger number of EU citizens to vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections.

    Elections EU Institutions Internet Technology

    Members of the European Parliament Online: The Use of Social Media in Political Marketing

    Research Papers

    15 Apr 2013

  • What do demonstrations on city streets in the Philippines in 2001, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2008, revocation of the results of the fraudulent elections in Moldavia in 2009, the M-15 movement with their camps and demonstrations in Spain in 2011, the so-called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East in early 2011, and the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that started in New York, also in 2011, all have in common?

    They have all used social media to help organise such protests and mobilise their responsible agents. Yet these were much more than just about arranging a party: they all greatly exploited social media to establish communication networks and move towards their objectives.

    Today’s social media have helped make real the idea of a “global village”, first put forward by communications theorist Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s, and suggests the claims of a “flat world” by twenty first century essayist Thomas L. Friedman are true. According to Friedman, personal computers and the speed of the optic cable in the transfer of information have marked the modern revolution and almost removed the limitations of time and space.

    Social media’s quick development into an important way to influence society is part of the advancement of information and communication technologies. The study Social Media and Politics – The New Power of Political Influence explores the development and use of social media in influencing politics and society.

    Innovation Internet Society Technology Youth

    Social Media and Politics – The New Power of Political Influence


    18 Dec 2012

  • Today the internet is part of our daily lives. But it is also part and parcel of our politics, from e-government straight through to e-revolutions. This book visits the major questions of Internet governance today bringing to the fore the role of the Internet in, and its impact on, politics and policy-making.This publication does not in itself aim to be an exhaustive text on the topic. Rather, the authors open small windows onto vast themes. Hopefully, this will entice readers to engage further with a relatively new area of academic research and perhaps – why not? – instigate them also to contribute to future research in this fascinating area.

    Innovation Internet Technology

    Governing the Internet


    01 Dec 2011