Final remarks – Mariete Schaake

Mariete Schaake, Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands.


Thank you so much.
Only listening to the conclusions, I feel like I’ve definitely missed the best part. By only being able to make it to these concluding thoughts. I’m sorry and I already look forward to the papers.
I think the initiative in including so many people in the discussion in out of the box thinking and seeking inspiration and encouraging policymakers as one of the last speakers said, to cultivate optimism is – very needed in these times where perhaps we tend to stand with our backs towards each other more than facing each other and we tend to see a lot of mistrust and concern rather than building trust and solutions. I’m very optimistic about that.
I was actually going to just say a few thoughts on the research, but also, I’m happy to try make predictions about the Next Generation internet. But what I think we could do now and hopefully will also feed into your papers is try to bridge the gap between research that you have done as well as large numbers and then try to find the link towards policymaking. Because I think the risk is that that these words are too far apart and in order to find concrete recommendation of policymakers not only the ones who are looking at technology and the internet specifically can work with could be very valuable.
For the next steps of your research, I also believe that we would we would benefit in seeking more proactive inclusiveness and proportional representation because I saw there was really a quite strong element of self-selection in the respondents and this could risk exacerbating existing views instead of bringing on board those that may be excluded by policies if they can’t make their voices heard.
Some of it reminded me of the whole multi stakeholder discussion that we often have about internet governance where sometimes that multi-stakeholder-ism risks becoming sort of an answer in and of itself without taking into consideration that one stakeholder may carry much larger responsibility, may represent many more people than the one individual who also of course has a perfectly legitimate right to raise their voice about the future of the open internet.
Perhaps this is more of a recommendation or an observation about the broader survey that many of the organization work together on.
What I found very encouraging and also recognize, was that so many respondents were focusing on the values needing to be at the heart of where the future internet goes I believe the public interest should always be at the core of what we are doing here at the European Parliament.
The risk is of course that this is not always the case, that the big corporate players or the large incumbents – this could also be member states are much more heard, that it’s much easier to for example say no two policy changes, rather than paving the way forward and looking at how the future should be shaped by policies that Safeguard the public interest despite the rapidly changing Technologies. If we indeed want to put the values at the heart of the decisions that we make towards the Next Generation internet or keeping the internet open, preserving the public interest at all, then I think we have to be very careful with “do something” polices.  
This is particularly important when it comes to National Security responses, where more and more often knee-jerk responses seek to implicate Technologies social media encryption, etc. in order to tackle terrorism for example, where perhaps as a result our cyber security is weaker and we are actually not much further towards a real solution at all. 
I think the same could be said for a trend that I see which is a push from policymakers – I see this from the European commission side often times – to push responsibilities on to the shoulders of big corporations and a real risk of a trend towards privatized law enforcement. Anywhere from tackling fake news, intellectual property rights infringements, in countering radicalization Etc.
This trend can be observed. And this can be in a real tension with this notion of safeguarding the public interest that so many of the public respondents spoke about.
There is a fundamental difference between what the rule of law prescribes or what is illegal content, versus what is undesirable content. We have plenty of examples of where large tech companies like Facebook for example believe something is undesirable which we here believe it is perfectly legal.
And so how to make sure that the rule of law and fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms remain leading in an increasingly connected world, where questions of jurisdiction complicate things and private companies are increasingly the norm setters of the digital environment. I believe it is a clear task for all of us.
This is complicated more by algorithms making decisions and companies admitting themselves that sometimes they themselves don’t know anymore where the head and the tales of the algorithms actually are. In other words, whether the algorithm is doing what it was actually intended to do and where the public oversight is remains probably one of the main challenges of our time.
If we don’t tackle that it’s hard to imagine how the Next Generation internet and Technology could become more considerate where it comes to the public interest. I think we have many present-day challenges to tackle that are key for what the future internet will look like.
Maybe a few more remarks but then I will be happy to just thank you all for your work. There is sometimes a tendency – and I don’t know if that came up in many of your discussions – but to think that we need to do many more new policies that we have to invent and write new laws – whereas I think it is a challenge enough to make sure that principles that are not contested such as free competition, access to information, non-discrimination, free expression – to make sure that they are upheld even in times of rapidly changing Technologies is a challenge enough without adding all kinds of new laws.
My preference is to build principles more so than to try to develop new laws for every new technology. I think we are better and more future-proof if we can make these principles rights freedoms essential Anchor Point from which we try to make sure that we reach also to new areas if new technologies so demand. There was a lot of hope that respondents to the survey also put in using decentralized technologies.
I saw an interesting observation about the distributed Ledger Technologies and I think that there’s often a lot of Hope when it comes to new technologies such as the block chain, that reminds me of how the expectations were with the open internet in and of itself a couple of decades ago. And although I am generally an optimist and I think there are opportunities everywhere, especially in technological developments, I think we risk underestimating the importance of governance. Linking back to the whole question about which stakeholder has which task, the question of safeguarding the public interest, the question of how to bake values into the systems that Engineers are making, I think there could be merit in Bridging the worlds of Technological design and development and of governance.
To make sure that we don’t just see extensions of governance models, so for example authoritarian governments using Technologies to increase their top down power, rather than putting the public interest first and considering how the design of the system actually has governance decisions in it oftentimes. If these are not well thought through, if systems are only designed for optimization, maximum profit, fastest result – then I believe that the very values that so many of the respondents talked about and I know we’re also the topics of some of the working sessions risk being blurred out and Fading Into the background. Away from oversight and scrutiny whether it’s democratic or judicial.
These are just a few remarks that came to my mind when I was looking at the work that you have done. Again, I’m sorry that I was not able to participate in all the working sessions but I do look forward to receiving the papers and seeing what these discussions will feed in for next year and for us as policymakers as advice in how we can use research to make more bottom up informed decisions. Thank you.

Day 2