Keynote 01 2021

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29 June 2021 | 14:15-14:45 | Studio Bruges, streamed to all locations | Video recording | Transcript
Consolidated programme 2021 overview / Day 1


  • Roberto Viola, Director General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission (15')
  • Patrick Penninckx, Head of information society department, Council of Europe (15')


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>> SANDRA HOFERICHTER: Welcome back, everyone, after the lunch break. I hope you enjoyed the morning programme and also the lunch break. I hope that our gather environment, the virtual space was not too challenging for you and you had some good discussions over there.

Some of you may have recognized we had issues with our EuroDIG wiki. There was a major power supply problem in Frankfurt and this is resolved now and all of the information like access links, et cetera, they’re available on the wiki again. We apologize for the inconvenience in the morning. This was not in our hands.

Now we are back! You are back in our hands! I would like to welcome you to the afternoon programme and we are going to start with the keynote speeches in our studio in Bruges.

How was the morning programme?

>> NADIA TJAHJA: Wonderful. We talked about greening the Internet, it was an active discussion and great breakout presentations and interesting reporting back. We look forward to the messaging.

>> SANDRA HOFERICHTER: How did the new format work out in the virtual space? It was an experiment kind of and organizers from focal session one, they were eager to try out this new format. How was this?

>> NADIA TJAHJA: It was interesting.

In the beginning they were able to present their thoughts and ideas and while there were some open discussions, going into breakout rooms, into finer details, they were able to really focus on specific issues.

>> SANDRA HOFERICHTER: Okay. From the distance, I also realized there was indeed kind of agreement process and discussion on the messages. It was not just that they were adopted, but I could also recognize in another studio there were back and forth questions on the issues, which is great. That’s what EuroDIG is about. It is about a dialogue on Internet governance and not just having speeches and giving some sort of output afterwards.

Now I would like to hand over to my dear colleague, ambassador.

>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: I’m happy to introduce two important representatives from two important European institutions, the first, Roberto Viola, Director General from communications networks, content and technology from the European Commission and then we’ll have the Council of Europe.

Interestingly, it is actually – I need to thank Roberto on a lesson on giving all you can until the last minute! We needed this last night.

Let me welcome Roberto Viola. His keynote speech is mainly linked to what we’ll discuss right after the speeches in Focus Session II about digital interdependence, how to deal and govern a space that’s so interdependent where everything is linked to everything. We’re keen to hear you, Roberto.

Thank you for being with us.

>> ROBERTO VIOLA: Many thanks. Many thanks to you for having me.

It is a pleasure to join you virtually. This is the 14th Forum on Internet Governance, and it is really an important dialogue for us and for the community.

Much like EuroDIG, this dialogue is all over Europe, virtually connected. This is a bit of the meaning that you will be discussing, which is the strategy for the digital decade, the next ten years, that we’re going to look at, it is much more interesting in the future because that’s where we’ll live rather than the past. Nobody, of course, knows what’s going to be the year 2030. Digital goes so quickly.

Things we thought were important ten years ago seem to be less important, things that were not thinking about, they seem to be very important. It will be the same.

What is really important, it is how we get there, how to get there and that’s the whole meaning of the strategy, the digital compass, this navigation map, how to navigate it in the next ten years in the digital eco space and make sure that we actually safely land in 230 with solid values with respect to human beings with solid democratic rules and respect for freedom of speech. That, technology will not change.

We today witness a virtual event where many, many people are coming from everywhere and are connected. This is an example of what could be the format of the post-pandemic society. I call it the distance-less society. Distance-less, it can sound a little bit like an oxymoron, because we’re all distant. At the same time, as today, we’re altogether.

In the Society of the Future, what really counts most is the physical distance or the digital distance? A bit of the mix of the two? I would say – that’s really the core message we’re trying to give with the digital decade strategy, we should make sure that our society, the Internet we want, it allows us to have zero distance, one to the other. Allows us to work where we want to work and stay in the countryside, that’s also better for the environment.

You know, during the pandemic we have been observing the environment very much, also to understand the link between the spread of the coronavirus and the impact. Through our satellites what, you normally see, what you normally have seen before the pandemic, yellow spots around the big cities and these are not good spots. There is a lot of pollution. During the lockdown, the spots, they started to shrink and even to disappear. Out of the tragedy of this pandemic, clearly, we see something good, moving less, moving – we like to move, we need to move, it is also better for the environment. A distance-less society, it is a society when people decide move when they like to move, a society where people are not obliged to move to work or obliged to move to study, people with equal opportunities, wherever they are, consequences of this new way of living, working together are really profound. We might have a much more sustainable environment in terms of the way we live together, we might have people that are not forced any more to change routes, to move from one country to another, sometimes because they need to work, need to eat, they need a better life. That’s why the distance-less society we think is a better society and we need to get there.

And if we come together, the digital distances, it is a good measure of the quality index of the Internet and looking at the governance of Internet, I think in the future more and more you have to understand whether with between you and other there is a distance. A network that doesn’t function, it keeps you distant from the others. Today we can speak, interact together, maybe in a relatively free form and in the future, it will be with digital reality, it is because we have decent connections.

The connections could be better and better for every citizen in Europe. That’s why one of our points of the digital decade, it is to make sure that every citizen, no matter where they live, no matter the economic condition, enjoys very good broadband connection to the Internet. This universal right of being connected with good quality is one of the fundamental pillars of the Digital Decade and of the European Society of The future.

Without connection, we’re distant. For those that don’t know how to use the tools, we’re distant as well. We cannot communicate, we cannot use the platforms that are needed. We don’t have the basic skills. That’s the other thing we have to crack. We have to make sure that every citizen has the basic knowledge to interact and work with a digital society and we have to make sure that not only the engineers of the futures, but the doctors of the future, the architects of the future has fairly good knowledge of digital tools. Even the artists of the future, they need to know about artificial intelligence and Big Data. That’s the other big objective.

The other big objective, the people. The infrastructure and people.

The third major change, making sure that companies can scale up to use digital tools to be better. Again, a traditional company, the backbone of the European industry is SMEs, traditional companies, they don’t know how to use digital tools, it is a company that’s distant from every other market but this market. That’s why it is scaling up, using digital schools, SMEs, it is important.

The third important point is to make sure that the administration works and functions and functions in your pocket. One of the things that you have experienced and have put together in three months is the digital corona pass, the green pass, whatever you call it. I mean, before the pandemic if someone would have told me that we would have been able to invent it, put it out in three months to everyone, millions – hundreds of millions of citizens, I would say you are crazy. We did it. We made sure that the system could be digitally signed and interoperable. Many of you I’m sure have already downloaded it. This is just the beginning. The next step, it is the European identity because on the Internet if you don’t own your identity, you don’t master your identity, you are not born. It is like in real life, of course, you are who you are, there are times when you have to prove your identity. An identity cannot be the identity from a commercial platform and another it is something else, it is your identity, the identity you control, it is the attributes that you release because you want to release them. You don’t need the history of your life to buy shoes, of course, you just need proof of payment and address. That’s what is about the new way of doing things. This is the next and the fourth point for the future decade, of what we call the digital administration, digital healthcare.

These four points, infrastructure, competency, scaling up of the industry, digital services for people, they are the four corner points of the Digital Decade. Of course, to do it, you must walk the talk. That’s why together with the Digital Decade Strategy, we have presented the fundamental laws that would regulate hopefully in the next ten years the digital ecosphere.

First of all, we completed – we have now – we have the three jewels about what we call the human-centric Internet governance. We’re the only region in the world with a law on Internet neutrality, jewel number one; number two, we have a digital services act that makes sure that nobody is above the law, nobody, no private platform can enforce its own way of doing things. Citizens have the right, citizens have the right to upload, to do what they like, of course, provided this is legal, and the legality cannot be based on personal judgment of one or the other platforms, especially when big, they must have responsibility to the customers and citizens and must check systematically and know if they’re selling online what kind of marketplace participants are part of the ecosystem.

The other point, market force, it cannot be the reason a small SME cannot sell online. That’s why the Digital Market Act makes sure that no matter the biggest platform, if this platform is a gatekeeper to the business, the platform must be open to whoever participates, even small that they have rights, they have rights to control their data that they sell or that the participant generates, there is rights to be treated in a non-discriminatory way.

These are three fundamental elements which we hope Internet will be a better place. Then also we proposed the first ever legislation in the world, its own legislation, it is like the GDPR for artificial intelligence.

The approach we have taken, it is that – first of all, artificial intelligence is a blessing for the human being and most of the applications, artificial intelligence, it is not problematic, it is not problematic with a nice AI-based focal camera, a smartphone, showing friends how good you are to make pictures, this is nice, this is good. There are plenty of protection laws that allow you to be user friendly with the products.

Moving up, for us, it is a kind of a pyramid, you have cases where you want to know whether you’re actually chatting with AI or a human being and that’s your right, and it is your right to have a human review. The moving up, there are cases where artificial intelligence algorithm, they’re used in life threatening circumstances. Now, there is some scaling but driving a car could be dangerous if something goes wrong. Everything in the machine, it is very good for us, but to human live at risk, being in a car, being in hospital, it is a high-risk application of AI which we need and are clear on how the algorithm is generated, documented, the performances, what is the third part of the algorithm and this is the category of AI, high-risk application. On.

The top of this pyramid in the European regulation of AI, you have the AI that we would no longer see, never ever in Europe, the AI that makes social scoring. This is the proposal, this must be banned in Europe. No citizens can be socially scorned in an indiscriminate way, that should be out of Europe.

Second AI which is totally banned in our proposal, it is the AI that manipulates people below their level and takes a signal that it is injected just to keep the driver awake, so the eye recognizes that it is a bit sleepy, and then to keep the driver awake more, it is kind of a wake up. This thing must be forbidden, this is dangerous and it is against the human being.

The third category of AI which is forbidden according to the regulation is the one that exploits the good faith of minors, people that don’t have all the capacity of an adult to understand, to choose, this type of AI should also be banned. We have created this pyramid, it is a risk-based approach. We regulate only the risk, there is no regulation. This, of course, must be together with serious investments, team testing centres, team friendly transparent AI. Some said that the project of Europe, of regulating AI will never work because an algorithm cannot be documented, we do not believe this is true. We do believe instead that the AI – the more the algorithm is complicated, the more it is complicated, it is plain, but when it comes to applications which are putting life at risk, there must be a necessity to explain things.

This is the way we want to leave the next ten years, we want to leave the next ten years in a distance-less society respecting human being, respecting democracy, freedom of speech, fundamental rights and treats every citizen equally. Of course we don’t know the technology in 2030, but it doesn’t matter. We want to make sure that the European money is invested to get there, to get everyone the connection, to get good skills, to get start-ups, scaling up, to get better administration. That’s the compass. This, of course, also means walking the talk by presenting legislation that goes into this philosophy. Some have called this – I don’t know, I would like to call it a better European effect.

You are the Internet governance community, you are the first defendant of the values around the world and these ideas. Of course, I mean, you are here to be vocal, to criticize when things are wrong, but I hope you will join us in defending this idea of the Digital Decade in the way we want to be living in the future a bit more closer, to be digitally closer together, it also means being physically closer together.

Many thanks for your attention.

>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: Thank you for the very interesting, relevant outlines about the vision of the E.U. on the Digital Decade and you touched on a number of very important points just to highlight one, two, it is the zero distance idea, it may – thanks to digital technologies may help us to solve a number of problems, not just in Europe but also elsewhere. The incredible speed we have witnessed from our administrations and the vaccination passes, passports, it is something that’s really remarkable. What’s happening in many countries, and I personally, I do hope that I’ll be able to use this passport in ten-days time when I will travel to your beautiful country for holiday with my family. Let’s see if we make it interoperable between the countries.

And just to raise the last issue that you mentioned, of course, AI, it has been a buzzword and will not go away and will continue and as a Swiss I’m delighted to see the vision of the E.U., the Commission, it is in line with what the Council of Europe is doing, I’m a member there, we all have an interest to come up with the vision that’s coherent and that in the end things work together in a way that we have a coherent system of regulation of how to use the technologies and make sure they’re used for good things, not bad things. You have outlined. I’m happy to see we’re working towards the same line, everybody in this role.

Thank you, Roberto, hope to see you physically soon, whether in Brussels or Italy, wherever.

Now we’ll move to Patrick Penninckx from the Council of Europe. He’s head of Information Society Department of the Council of Europe, and he will also make a contribution that will be in particularly targeting workshop 4 and 7 about the data protection and AI and actually can build perfectly on what Roberto had just said.

Patrick, I hope you’re with us.

>> PATRICK PENNINCKX: I can. I hope you can hear me.

>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: I can see and hear you.

>> PATRICK PENNINCKX: Very good. Very good.

>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: Since we’re short of time, I will stop talking and hand over the floor to you immediately and wish you all you have luck for the next football game, my heartbeats for both of you! Please draw and don’t create a winner! That’s not possible! The floor is yours.

Thank you very much.

>> PATRICK PENNINCKX: Thank you so much, Thomas.

I don’t know if it is the results of the football match yesterday, but today the rain is pouring down and it is very stormy weather. I hope my connection remains despite the environment in which we have to work now.

Just quickly, I could of course fully adhere to what has been said. I think with what Roberto said, it is exactly also in line with what the Council of Europe is doing.

In that sense, and we are cooperating closely together, we’re very much involved in the development of the digital services act, we have been negotiating and discussing also about the artificial intelligence package so we’re very closely working together and that’s a good sign.

Of course, we have our particular emphasis, we have our particular approach, and that is focusing on Human Rights rule of law and democracy. That’s our angle, our take on digital developments.

For us, since the inception of the Pan-European dialogue on the Internet governance, the Council of Europe supported it with full commitment and you remember, Thomas, at our premises here. The EuroDIG, one of the first ones, already there our joint messages were extremely clear, there was then and there is still a need for a multistakeholder dialogue to guide the development of the Internet in a way that promotes Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democracy. We have taken that example of multistakeholder dialogue also to other arenas.

For the second year in a row, this event is now purely held online and despite that, all of you are present here. That shows that the EuroDIG initiative for me is indeed a resilient, relevant in a world that’s accelerating Digital Transformation.

Amongst the things that concern us all as citizens, there of course the environmental issue, how to ensure Sustainable Development in a world increasingly dependent on technology and with people accustomed to, expecting I would say constant technological improvements? Of course, these developments, they’re often not without an environmental cost. The collection of increased amounts of data, AI modeling, storage of information, decentralized ledgers accelerated the consumer products that’s not resource intensive. Therefore, we have to be absolutely clear on where we stand. We may need to find the right balance between technological agility and sustainability.

The question of increasing disproportion in the data processing and the decision making capabilities is also equally central. The providers of digital services and platforms that access an enormous amount of information, including personal data, I would say including sensitive data and cutting-edge technology. With such data and technology, these providers today can constructively contribute as Roberto was saying, to the formation of public opinion as never before. Just as easily, unfortunately, they can facilitate the spread of false information, overwhelming people’s data processing capacities, exploit fears and prejudices by means of manipulative microtargeting artificial polarization in many methods.

The need to ensure a responsible use of technology does not end here. It is equally relevant for the increasing number of situations where the disproportionately powerful, the big governmental institutions, corporations, they automated decision making effecting the others and the numerous concerns raised by Civil Society, by you, and by the academia are well heard by those in a position to regulate or self-regulate on this matter? That’s an important question to be asked.

All of these issues must be addressed by proper governance, by building adequate public policies and we already see that a key role here is played by U.N., UNESCO, the European Commission, others as we have heard from Roberto. Our organization, Council of Europe has been working for years to develop public policies aimed at shaping the evolution and use of the digital technologies and the Internet.

To that end, we have been there at the outset employing a multistakeholder approach and contributing in various way, in particular through the declaration by the Committee of Ministers already ten years ago on Internet governance principles. Since then, our in-depth work is focused on the development of Internet governance standards and their effective implementation.

These standards are in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, of course. The court expresses that Member States have an obligation to secure the right and freedoms enshrined in the convention to everyone within their jurisdiction, whether that be offline and online. It is useful to recall always that the rule of law is a prerequisite for the effective exercise of Human Rights and for a pluralistic, participatory democracy.

Having just seen the election results here in France with a poor level of participation, it has become, of course, all the more important. What are now the last achievements of the Council of Europe in the field of the Internet governance. We understand from our side, social media service providers and other Internet intermediaries these days have a profound influence on public discourse and the formation of public opinion and with great power comes also great responsibility. We, therefore, promote the rule of law approach to the governance of the intermediaries with self-regulations as an important complimentary form of governance. There has to be an act acknowledging the curational and editorial roles and call on states to assign to them corresponding responsibilities.

More recently, our Committee on Experts on freedom of expression and digital technologies have adopted a guidance note on the best practices towards effective legal and procedural frameworks for self-regulatory and coregulatory mechanisms of content moderation.

Content moderation, dear friends, it is, of course, a necessary tool to procure the proliferation of issues and this pose as number of risk for the range of Human Rights, including freedom of thought, freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and others. The guidance note provides for us a clear mapping and concrete guidelines for our Member States on developing the approaches to content moderation that are both Human Rights compatible and achieve public policy objectives.

Two weeks ago we had a separate ministerial conference in charge of media and Information Society and adopted several resolutions, including the resolution on freedom of expression and digital technologies. The final declaration also recalls that further guidance must be developed with respect to those Internet intermediaries and the declaration notes that such guidance should enable the protection and the empowerment, namely of children, elderly persons, senior, other vulnerable groups and they should be provided with the knowledge, skills, awareness necessary for the safe access to the digital environment and able to exercise their rights in all times. A suggestion for EuroDIG, I know yesterday you already had the YouthDIG and I have been a very big promoter of the youth involvement in the EuroDIG, but increasingly, our senior citizens probably also need better media literacy and Internet governance literacy in order to be able to participate in today’s society, and maybe we can have a SeniorDIG in a future edition.

The Council of Europe will continue to employ the coordinated, multistakeholder approach to the development of standards for Internet governance and beyond.

Roberto mentioned artificial intelligence and the Council of Europe’s Committee on Artificial intelligence is currently considering the feasibility of an international regulation for the development of artificial intelligence which is compatible with Human Rights democracy and the rule of law and in July, in a couple of weeks, already next week, the Committee will publish the first conclusions of its global consultation with inputs from more than 200 participants, whether that be individuals or institutions. The council benefits also from the partnership with a digital industry and business associations, this partnership already comprises 25 members, and thanks to them we have received valuable input from large industry and small and medium-sized companies.

We’re now exploring how to further develop the cooperation.

What’s our contribution to EuroDIG 2021? We are also proud of our partnership with not only the EuroDIG but also with the IGF. The partnership has proven to be very effective at promoting core values of the Council of Europe and we’re going to be closely involved in the establishment of the multistakeholder high-level body where we aim to play a very active role.

During this EuroDIG focus session we want to shed light on the impact of the use of artificial intelligence. To this end, we have prepared two workshops: Our first workshop will deal with the consequences of AI for data protection and will take place very soon after this input. The workshop will give an overview of the challenges of the industry and governments are facing today in relation to AI and data protection, and we will provide insights into some of the possible solutions.

The focus will be ongoing regulatory developments in the field of AI and data protection and how the industry could use AI in a privacy friendly way.

The second workshop will be related to bias in automated decision making systems. The workshop participants among which are renown experts in machine learning, law, AI policy will discuss popular misconceptions about AI bias and will distinguish legitimate concerns from unreasonable fears. They will also discuss a different approach to defining and understanding bias, how it appears in human and automated decision making and when it requires regulatory intervention.

The Council of Europe’s vision of Digital Transformation goes beyond the next ten years I would say. Speaking of our future work, beyond the event, the Council of Europe will continue to engage in the elaboration of relevant legal standards guiding the development application of AI and other societally important digital technologies. We understand that Digital Transformation has a broad impact on Human Rights, including privacy, freedom of expression, offline, online, and the fight against unlawful discrimination, including hate speech. In this regards, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, we especially focus our efforts on helping all of our citizens be they young or old, to understand the challenges of the ding tall transformation and be equipped to deal with them in an effective manner. To this end, we’re especially enthusiastic about the role of EuroDIG which we’ll continue to support.

From year to year we see an increase in the richness of the debates here, the care given by the organizers to ensure the diversity of topics and the quality of the contribution. I, therefore, reiterate that the Council of Europe’s strong commitment to ensuring that this unique platform for dialogue is further strengthened in the years to come and that it is complemented also with other regional platforms and national platforms in which these important discussions can take place.

I hope even though we’re in this online environment that you will be able to follow the different workshops that are going to take place. I’m sure they will be very much enthusiastic, making you more enthusiastic about the Internet governance for the future.

Thank you.

>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: In particular, to hook on the last words, I would like to thank both your institutions, the European Commission and the Council of Europe for their long-standing commitment to support an open interactive multistakeholder dialogue like this in the EuroDIG and your support was even more important over the last 15 months which was a difficult period, not just for Sandra and the Secretariat team behind her, the whole community to somehow cope with the situation. The strong commitment of the Commission, of the Council of Europe, it is fundamental and let me also thank both the Commission and you on our joint work, I say this as a representative of the Swiss government in trying to make the global IGF political, meaningful, having effect. This is fundamental not just to focus on Europe but not leave the rest to the side.

Thank you to both of you. Hope to see you again physically soon as well.

Let me hand over to Sandra.

Thank you.

>> SANDRA HOFERICHTER: Thank you, Thomas.

Also from my side, I would like to thank on a working level those people from these organization, Council of Europe, European Commission that worked really hard to shape the sessions to deliver input with the expertise that that they have. You will have two workshops, one organized by the Council of Europe and the Focus Session II on the topic of the E.U. agenda, governing digital interdependence and the role of Europe. These are basically the line-ups for the keynote speeches we were listening to.

In addition, you can talk about crypto, doing everything online, what’s it doing with us, you can have a look at how the copyright directive is implemented in the E.U. Member States and also talk about content moderation in the Internet infrastructure.

I’ll announce, promote once more a special social event today, a magician, a mentalist, it is an interactive show. I do understand that we have a hard competition with Germany against England and Ukraine against Sweden. Everyone who is not into football, into soccer, please join us for this evening. It will be really fun, and it is quite some effort that we undertook to bring this person here.

>> THOMAS SCHNEIDER: If you want your football team to win, you have to use the magician to help them!

>> SANDRA HOFERICHTER: That could be! That could be something!.

With this, I would like to hand over back to the studios. Enjoy the rest of your day, don’t go away for the closing of the day and also when the magician comes.

Enjoy your day.