Commissioner Vestager debates digital sovereignty.

Last week, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President, A Europe fit for the Digital Age, and Pascal Lamy, former Director General of the World Trade Organisation, participated in a debate hosted by the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE) on “Digital Sovereignty in the age of Pandemics”. Whilst the larger parts of the discussion were focused on the EU’s response, both practically and financially, to the Covid-19 pandemic, digital sovereignty, platform regulation and the DSA were all given an honourable mention.

Ms. Vestager opened the discussions highlighting that this was an excellent time to discuss the EU’s digital sovereignty and that in order to maintain our digital sovereignty we need to understand and control it and in order to this we need to regulate. Vestager held the EU’s GDPR up as an example saying how it has set the agenda all over the planet regarding privacy. Moving forward she said, if we want to set the same standards for Artificial Intelligence (AI) then we need to be able to use and know AI or we will not be able to control it.

Mr. Lamy emphasised that once we are past the coronavirus crisis there will be a stronger need for digital in our lives as the demand has been boosted by the crisis. Lamy stated that the EU will have much work to do and it will be important to see if the crisis had convinced the EU public opinion on moving forward with digital sovereignty. Vestager agreed with Lamy’s summary regarding the EU’s extensive workload post crisis giving the example that today’s social media platforms are not Europeans but the next era can be.

Stepping into the area of platform regulation, the question was posed that as a result of the crisis we have seen a shift in the behaviour from large platforms as they provided positive contributions supporting governments where possible. In light of this behavioural shift, Vestager was asked if this would change her ideas concerning platforms under the Digital Services Act. Vestager gave a strong and conclusive no to this, explaining that we need what we have seen in the crisis consistently, and regulation for everyone provides this.

Since the Webinar, we now know that the consultation for the DSA is expected for mid or end May. While, MEP, Alex Agius Saliba has welcomed news that Google is ready to roll out verification program for all advertisers online “Industry is already implementing obligations suggested under our draft (initiative report on the Digital Services Act).”