On October 10, Columbia University Law Professor Anu Bradford spoke at the EU Parliament Library about the need for more robust regulation of Big Tech companies and digital markets.
She was joined by a panel of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Germany’s Andreas Schwab, Italy’s Irene Tinagli, and Romania’s Dragoş Tudorache. The discussion was centred around Bradford’s new book, Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology and was chaired by Adam Satariano, the New York Times’ Technology Correspondent.
The talk was introduced by the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. During her introduction, Metsola described the EU as a “global leader” in regulating technology. She praised the European Parliament for passing legislation that protects citizens’ data privacy, ensures contestable and fair markets in Europe’s digital economy, and safeguards users from illegal content online.
As the EU’s AI Act nears adoption, she also highlighted the EU’s “trailblazing” role in Artificial Intelligence (AI) legislation.
The focus of the talk was on the differing policies of the USA, the EU, and China regarding technology regulation
The focus of the talk was on the differing policies of the USA, the EU, and China regarding technology regulation. Bradford argued that the 21st century so far has seen the USA adopt a “libertarian” approach where regulation was seen to come at the expense of innovation and was thus limited. In contrast, the Chinese government has introduced far-reaching state controls over data collection and online infrastructures.
Bradford stated that the EU was a world leader in technological regulations that took a “human-centric” approach. She praised the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for protecting individuals’ privacy and the Digital Markets Act for harmonising the EU’s competition laws in digital markets.
Bradford emphasised her view that extensive regulation was not the reason why the EU is lagging behind the US
Throughout the talk, Bradford emphasised her view that extensive regulation was not the reason why the EU is lagging behind the US as the driver of technological innovation. Instead, she stated that the EU was held back by the lack of an integrated capital market for funding technology start-ups and called upon European nations to embrace a culture of risk-taking. Bradford contrasted many European states’ “punitive” bankruptcy laws with the risk-seeking attitude of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
Later in the discussion, Satariano asked why America’s position on regulating technology had shifted away from a libertarian approach in the last few years. Tinagli and Bradford argued that the threat of Chinese authoritarianism underpinned by the state’s online surveillance highlighted the need for individual data privacy protection, whilst the war in Ukraine reminded America’s political leaders of their shared values with the EU.
However, Bradford noted that the current legislative inefficacy of the US Congress and the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election prevented further alignment of cross-Atlantic policies.
Tudorache stated that the pace of AI development made producing effective legislation extremely difficult
At the end of the discussion, the panel answered questions about problems surrounding AI regulation. Tudorache stated that the pace of AI development made producing effective legislation extremely difficult. However, he also thought that legislators should take the time to learn about the technology, particularly its potential impact on democratic processes and citizens’ lives. He cited the EU’s Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Age, which he previously chaired, as exemplifying the notion that politicians can produce precise regulation on complex technological issues.