Category Archives: Core values

“Stuck in the middle with you”, the case for keeping illiberal Hungary and Poland within the EU (for now)

Kees Cath

Poland and Hungary’s threatening to block the EU budget because of the link between the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) and the rule of law, in combination with their continued undermining of the rule of law domestically has led to a debate on whether these countries should remain in the EU. In this post PhD student Kees Cath argues that working towards expulsion would not be appropriate at this point.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own point of view.

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Reflection on the GDS webinar by Sandra Wachter: ‘The (im)possibility of algorithmic fairness’

Machiko Kanetake, Lucky Belder and Karin van Es

© iStockphoto.com/PayPau

What regulatory frameworks does the EU have to detect and rectify biased algorithms? Unfortunately, some of the celebrated legal frameworks in the EU on data protection and non-discrimination do not seem to be fit for purpose in the age of automated decision-making, as Sandra Wachter elucidated in her Utrecht University webinar on 26 January 2021 hosted by the Special Interest Group ‘Principles by Design: Towards Good Data Practice’.

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Solidarity during the Covid-19 crisis within the European Union – a legal principle or just a pivotal political aspiration?

Anne Joppe

The principle of solidarity is called upon mostly in times of crisis, as happened, for example, during the Eurozone crisis and the refugee crisis. During the current crisis as a consequence of the Covid-19 outbreak, the EU calls again for solidarity among the Member States to combat the pandemic. Global solidarity is mentioned also as a sort of founding value of the EU vaccines strategy.

Nevertheless, it is unclear what the principle actually entails. The situation after the Covid-19 outbreak allows to investigate whether there is indeed a legal value or notion of European solidarity that can be enforced, whilst we also see national reflexes of protecting the own citizens and market in times of crisis. The latter seems to prevail in the dispute between the EU and the UK about the AstraZeneca vaccine, for instance. Where the EU calls on a fair and ‘solidary’ distribution of the vaccines throughout Europe, the UK seems to prioritise its own programme and wants the company to favour the UK, even though that might threaten the relationship with the EU.

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Setting the dark on fire

Viktorija Morozovaite

This blogpost is part of a series of short commentaries on the European Commission’s proposals for a Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act, released on 15 December 2020. Stay tuned for more.

Digital advertising has become the bread and butter for digital platforms providing content and services online. The highly anticipated DMA and DSA proposals include provisions that jointly tackle issues that surfaced in these opaque markets. The overarching goals are far-reaching with rules aimed to curb structural market concerns caused by gatekeeping platforms and to strengthen online users’ rights. When it comes to advertising-specific rules, the overarching theme in both documents is transparency.

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‘If the product is free, you are the product’ – A vision of humanity in the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts

Pauline Phoa

This blogpost is part of a series of short commentaries on the European Commission’s proposals for a Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act, released on 15 December 2020. Stay tuned for more.

Is the EU’s regime, including the Commission’s recent proposals in form of the DSA and DMA, fit to face the demands of our era of Big Tech and ‘big data’? I think the challenges posed by new technological developments necessitate a rethinking of the foundations of the regulatory system.

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Contestability in the digital sector: the Digital Markets Act vs. disruptive innovation

Lisanne Hummel

This blogpost is part of a series of short commentaries on the European Commission’s proposals for a Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act, released on 15 December 2020. Stay tuned for more.

With the Digital Markets Act (DMA) the Commission wants to ensure a contestable digital sector, where the threat of new companies entering the sector keeps the existing firms’ market power in check. The DMA aims to increase the threat of new companies by imposing certain obligations on gatekeepers, who will most likely be the big tech companies: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. However, these big tech companies strongly believe that it is not regulation but innovation that has kept the digital sector contestable and will continue to do so. The question is, will the DMA make the digital sector more contestable or should we keep relying on innovation?

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DSA, DMA and ‘Access to…’

Laura Frederika Lalíková

This blogpost is part of a series of short commentaries on the European Commission’s proposals for a Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act, released on 15 December 2020. Stay tuned for more.

Being a fan of British comedy, I’d like to quote James Veitch (who is best known for his witty interactions with the authors of scam emails): “The Internet gave us access to everything; but it also gave everything access to us.” This struck a chord with me, as I realized that the question of access has left the tables of social sciences and legal scholars and entered the likes of comedy clubs, signifying the importance of the currency of the topic of access in digital space. People understand access. They might not understand the intricacies of it, but they understand it on a fundamental level  – the value of access and the benefits which derive from it. And we should strive to protect it.

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Countering the power of big tech companies: is the bigger picture missing?

Anna Gerbrandy

This blogpost is the first in a series of short commentaries on the European Commission’s proposals for a Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act, released on 15 December 2020. Stay tuned for more.

Let me start with a heartfelt compliment: well done with the DMA&DSA! These are timely and useful proposals aiming to ‘to establish a level playing field’ and create ‘a safer digital space’. But I wonder: are we missing a bigger picture? Do the proposed rules curb the power of the Big Tech companies sufficiently?

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Disinformation: The EU Commission’s response to the Covid-19 infodemic and the feasibility of a consumer-centric solution

By Ruairi Harrison

As conversations around the globe concerning the issue of online disinformation gather gravity and frequency, it is tempting to view disinformation as a 21st century problem. Yet this phenomenon can be traced back to Octavian’s grappling for power in the turbulent post-Caesar Civil War period. Here, the first Roman Emperor manipulated information concerning his first adversary, Marcus Antonius, using brief rhetorical notes engraved on coins and circulated around Rome. These notes painted his rival as a drunk, a womaniser and a headstrong soldier incapable of ruling an empire. They ultimately proved their effectiveness in gaining the public’s support and their simple, accessible form and message could be compared to a modern day ‘Tweet’. Think Trump calling the mail-in ballot system into disrepute in a series of easy-to-read tweets devoid of evidence. 

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US sanctions against persons involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project: Europe’s energy sovereignty under threat – Part II

By Cedric Ryngaert and Tom Ruys

In our previous post, we have argued that the imposition of US sanctions on persons involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipeline between Russia and Germany is in tension with the customary international law of jurisdiction, insofar as such sanctions go beyond mere access restrictions and involve, for instance, the blocking (freezing) of assets. In this second post, we review the permissibility of US NS2 sanctions under two other, trade-related regimes, namely the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the bilateral Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty between the US and Germany of 1954. We argue that various NS2 sanctions – including access restrictions – potentially violate US obligations under these regimes, and that, on this basis, Germany could trigger international dispute-settlement with the US. 

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