EUROPE WRESTLES BIG TECH TO THE MAT

In a vote that could change the internet as we know it, the European Parliament yesterday approved a sweeping reform of the EU's digital copyright policy. The law would make big websites liable when their users post copyrighted material without permission.


Supporters of the measure, which passed in a 348-274 vote, say it will help artists, book publishers, video producers, and record labels claw back power from Silicon Valley tech giants by ensuring they are fairly compensated for their work.

Opponents – which include tech firms and a bevy of internet activists – have run up a free speech flag, arguing the rules could force websites to install upload filters that scan for copyrighted material, making it harder for people to post and share stuff online.

We're interested in the fracas here at Signal because it's a great example of how Europe is pulling out all the stops in order to become the world's first tech-regulatory superpower.

Caught between freewheeling Silicon Valley's surveillance capitalism and techno-authoritarian China – and largely without tech behemoths of its own -- the 28-member economic giant is trying to shape the future of technology through law.

The EU's approach aims to give individual citizens, rather than companies, control over their personal data. It's also trying to bust up what it sees as unfair monopolies in the industry. And Brussels isn't shy about taking that fight directly to Silicon Valley – just last week the EU slapped a $1.7 billion judgment on Google for abusing its dominant position in the online ad market – the latest in a series of big fines that Europe's competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has levied on Big Tech.

With copyright reform now headed to member states for final approval, and enforcement of data protection rules picking up, other big ideas knocking around Europe include regulating AI and perhaps even forcing the world's most powerful digital companies to share some of their data with competitors.

The upshot: Europe's 430 million or so relatively affluent internet users are a big draw for tech firms, but if regulation gets too strict, they could leave altogether, leaving the Old World behind in tech innovation. The tech sector's response to this week's copyright reforms will be an important bellwether for which way things start to go.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, provides his perspective on technology news:

Will the new audit of Facebook civil rights practices change the way the company operates?

Yes. It came under a lot of pressure from civil rights activists who organized an advertising boycott. And then an internal audit on Facebook's effect on civil rights came out. It was quite critical. Those two things, one after the other, will surely lead to changes at the company.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.