Platform responsibility? Get the backstory - check my book The Closing of the Net - only £15.99!

Theresa May’s  exclamation of  ‘what?’  as  Michael Gove effectively dismissed the idea of an EU security co-operation agreement,  was a moment of truth.

The former Prime Minister has expressed her concern that the government is ignoring security issues in its hardened drive to leave the EU without any agreement – and indeed, without honouring the Political Declaration that she and her team negotiated. Official communications from the government, fail to mention security, including a letter from

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 As  talks on a UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal enter their tense final stages, a vital agreement on  security co-operation is hanging in the balance. A bespoke proposal has been tabled by the EU. It would facilitate ongoing access to cross-border data that police and intelligence services need. If it cannot be agreed, there are serious risks for law enforcement and individual privacy.  A reluctance on the part of the UK government to commit to future support for the European Convention on Human Rights  puts it  in jeopardy.  

The security co-operation agreement is needed so that UK law enforcement

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OneWeb satellite in orbit

Last week, the Business,  Energy and Industrial Strategy  (BEIS) Select Committee called in satellite industry experts to probe the government’s £400m purchase of a share in the OneWeb low earth orbit (LEO) system and its potential in comparison to what we have lost in the European Galileo system. Some commentators describe it as a ‘gamble’ and space industry experts politely say it is ‘risky’. Is this  a good use of public money? 

The BEIS Committee Chair, Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West,  established fairly quickly  that One Web

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New rules incompatible with the AI-driven supply chain systems that support our modern life will cause an industrial splutter. Lorry parks at the border are merely a symptom of systemic dysfunction. Expect price rises and  goods shortages. Strawberries and salads may fall off the menu. Prompt action could alleviate the situation, but ignoring it will result in long term damage.

When the UK finally quits the Single Market  on 1 January,  rule changes will come into effect for businesses.  With or without a ‘deal’, new trade barriers will be erected.  Customs declarations will be needed for goods going in or out of the country, traders will have to demonstrate compliance with standards and ‘rules of origin’,  and depending on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU, a tariff payment will be required.  The latest UK -EU discussions about 'cabotage'  - rules for pick up and drop off in the EU27-  underscore how deep the changes will run. In all likelihood, it will lead to  uncertainties of supply, price hikes and

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As policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic seek to curb the power of the ‘big tech’ leviathans, is anti-trust the best tool to address speech online?

When the four titans of tech testified at a recent hearing in the US Congress, it was meant to be about anti-trust and market abuses. The technology companies were indeed put on the defensive about their monopolistic practices,  but some of the most difficult exchanges were about content and censorship. It raises the issue about their power over  speech, which presents a far more complex question for lawmakers than

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What does the Schrems case mean for UK post-Brexit data flows? At the heart of the Schrems case is a conflict of laws - a conflict between EU  privacy  law and US surveillance law.  After 31 December, the question about surveillance law turns around to point at the UK.  Whichever way one looks at it, deal or no deal with the EU, UK surveillance law will be the determining factor. 

Overnight on 31 December 2020, the rules governing data flows from the UK to other countries will change. As the UK pulls out of the pan-European GDPR regime, it simultaneously rips

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The UK is ‘clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns’. Protecting our democratic  discourse from a hostile state is the role of the intelligence agencies. Integral to that process are the social media platforms, who are private actors.  What role should platforms have in a national security context? The Russia report, released on 21 July, exposes some of the issues.

The Russia report* confirms that the UK is a target for online political interference  by the Russian State (para 31), but it exposes a gaping hole in the ability of the UK authorities to tackle the problem.  It paints a worrying picture of the intelligence agencies abrogating their responsibility to  protect the discourse and processes of the UK against the activities of foreign powers. Despite the known interference on social media, including with the 2016 referendum, there seems to be 

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In the face of over 50,000*coronavirus-related deaths in the UK alone - potentially as high as 60,000* - why should we care about digital rights?

Beside the grave risks to life posed by Covid-19, your rights in using Internet services may seem like a lower priority.  However, as lockdown measures make entire societies digitally-dependent, it has never been more important to  safeguard people’s activities online.

The coronavirus public health emergency  - and specifically the lockdown measures – changed the ‘normal’ way of life overnight as entire societies were obliged to stay at home. These measures created an environment where digital systems became the arteries of social and economic life for entire populations.  The situation created a universal dependence on digital communications that has arguably not been the case previously. While lockdown is  easing, the digital dependence is likely to remain high.

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Will Germany save us from the upload filter?

Tomorrow – Monday 15th April – the EU  Copyright Directive goes to the Council of Ministers. It has been anticipated that this would be the final stage of its legislative journey and that it would be rubber-stamped into law.  However, the controversy over the upload filter  (Article 17 – ex-13) has not abated and six countries have already announced that they cannot vote in favour. That means there is  a blocking minority, but it is not quite sufficient yet to stop the Directive from getting into law.  Crucially, the position of the German government hangs in the balance.

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The Copyright Directive was passed in the European Parliament butthere is still one  final hurdle  before it becomes law. It must be adopted by the Council of Ministers. This article issues a reminder to Member State governments of the reasons why it is problematic.

A controversial provision being inserted into EU copyright law is causing consternation after the European Parliament voted last week to accept it.  This is the so-called upload filter  - a proposal to check all content uploaded by users for copyright compliance. However,  it’s not yet final and there is a small group of Member States who have said they will withold their consent when the law goes to the Council of Ministers. They may not yet have the numbers, but it's an interesting move.

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Queues of trucks, shortages of carrots, but what about our data? We take it for granted to run our lives. It is the invisible agent that enables everything from sending a photo to a friend, to the vast industrial logistics support for those very trucks that deliver the carrots and other vegetables to our supermarkets.

Data-driven activity is so much a part of daily life in 2019 that we don’t even contemplate it not functioning. If it didn’t function, we wouldn’t either.

The effects of Brexit on the data world are also invisible, lurking under the surface in a quagmire that will make itself felt tangibly if Brexit is in any way allowed to happen ( uncertain and subject to Parliamentary battles at the time of writing).

How can we identify these effects? Here goes.

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Culture Committee of the European Parliament in session 2019

Will they dump  the upload filter?  Moves are afoot in the European Parliament to protect free speech and reject the imposition of upload filters  in two key pieces of legislation before the current sitting of the European Parliament. The Copyright Directive has been stalled by the Council, with a scheduled trilogue cancelled. Meanshlie, amendments to delete requirements for proactive monitoring in the Terrorism Directive are being tabled in two committees.

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As we saw in part 1, the ways that Brexit rips through business models are quite complex. Travelling back in time to a simpler era in 1973 before the UK joined the EEC, does not seem like a practical option for business. Cross-border trade, which was the exception back then, is now the norm. People get on planes for one-day conferences and business meetings. The simple email that was conceived inthe early 1970s  has itself been outgunned by the smartphone app. Rules are needed to govern these new practices that in themselves generate unforeseen legal complexities.  Being outside the EU will not suddenly drop the UK back into a simple system where it can pull up drawbridge and act as an island. There will be too many wires left dangling.

In part 1 of How Brexit Rips Up Business Models,  we considered the effects of a post-Brexit dual compliance regime. Here, in Part 2,  we look at some specific aspects  of  Brexit-imposed  changes to cross-border trade and trade in services.  

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The Closing of the Net   (Polity Press 2016)


"takes the pulse of the open web" Journal of IP Law & Practice


PAPERBACK & KINDLE FROM £15.99

 

If the open Internet is an essential precondition for democracy,  should governments or corporations be allowed to restrict it? This is the question at the heart of my book ‘The Closing of the Net’ and it discusses the backdrop to the political controversies of today around such issues as fake news,  terrorism content online,  and mis-use of data – controversies that result in calls for ‘responsibility’ by online companies. The book argues that any regulation of these companies must enshrine public interest criteria, which must balance the competing rights at stake.

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

"original and valuable"  Times higher Education

" essential read for anyone interested in understanding the forces at play behind the web." ITSecurity.co.uk

Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy (and related issues on Brexit). Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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