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EUROPE WRESTLES BIG TECH TO THE MAT

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.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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