POLITICO Pro Morning Tech
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With Laura Kayali, Mark Scott, Steven Overly and Hanne Cokelaere


Huawei is pushing its message in Berlin, London and Lisbon on 5G rollout in Europe and the role they are bound to play.

Will the S&D vote down the von der Leyen Commission?

UK ministers ignored warnings of digital election interference

Good Wednesday Morning, and welcome back to Morning Tech. Email tips to [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and, [email protected].


HUAWEI PR PUSH: This morning, Huaweis Germany team will meet with journalists for breakfast in a Berlin hotel (while their U.K. colleagues are hosting a similar event with British journalists in London) to answer “any questions they have” on the rollout of fifth-generation mobile internet and the heated debate over whether Huawei should be allowed to participate.

Earlier this week, the company released a report saying that its presence in Europe provided a €12.8 billion stimulus to the EUs economy. And at the Web Summit in Lisbon, the companys rotating chairman Guo Ping encouraged developers yesterday “to take advantage of the golden opportunity offered by 5G,” reminding them “that app developers typically get the lions share of profits, and their income increases most rapidly.” The underlying message was that when it comes to building up cutting-edge infrastructure, no one gets things done as quickly as Huawei — and that the company has long become an integral element of Europes digital ecosystem.

Berlin as a location is no coincidence: No country seems as divided over whether to include Huawei in its 5G rollout as Germany. Earlier this week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated a warning against including the company, telling a conference in Berlin that Huawei is “dependent on the state because of legal obligations in China and has to provide the state with information.” The warning came after last month, Chancellor Angela Merkels office had decided to give Huawei the green light, after the countrys telecoms operators (who all use Huawei equipment) had said repeatedly that excluding the company would delay the rollout of 5G.

Hungary, meanwhile, yesterday paved the way for Huawei to participate in its own rollout of 5G.


Also in Berlin, the Bundestags subcommittee on arms control and disarmament is meeting for a public hearing to discuss lethal autonomous weapons systems, or killer robots. Over at the German economy ministry, state secretary Ulrich Nussbaum and his Japanese colleague Shigehiro Tanaka are set to sign a joint declaration on artificial intelligence and Industry 4.0.

In Brussels, MEPs Maria Spyraki and John Howarth are hosting a conference on cybersecurity tonight “with the support of the Chinese Mission to the EU.” The Parliaments internal market committee meets to talk about free flow of data and the first trilogue on terrorist content.

And in Dublin, lawmakers from ten countries are set to attend the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News. Mark will be in Dublin, too, so reach out if youre also in town.


SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WARN VDL ON GENDER BALANCE: Ursula von der Leyen had better get Romania to nominate a woman for the new European Commission, the leader of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group, Spanish MEP Iratxe García, warned during a meeting Tuesday evening with the Commission president-elect.

The S&Ds frustration over the shrinking number of women on the new Commission is compounded by the party losing the Romanian commissioners seat to the center-right European Peoples Party (EPP), after the social democrat government in Bucharest collapsed. An S&D official said members of the group were eager to approve the new Commission and to restart legislative work in earnest, but that they would potentially withhold support if von der Leyen accepts a male nominee from Bucharest. Read more here from David Herszenhorn here.


DIGITAL SERVICES ACTS COUNCIL DEBUT: Tuesday, the Commission presented the future Digital Services Act to Council attachés in the telecom and competitiveness working parties. The gathering was meant for EU countries to share their views on projects in the context of the Council, but no other meetings on the topic are foreseen in the near future, one EU official told Morning Tech.

Agreement on the broad principles: In general, EU countries agreed that rules on illegal content online need to be updated while maintaining the country of origin principle, the platforms liability regime and the prohibition of general monitoring obligations, two EU officials said. National delegations did raise some specific issues. For example, France said the Commission should focus on the biggest players. French Culture Minister Franck Riester recently called on specific rules at EU-level for “structuring platforms” (think Google and Facebook.) Other countries focused on the need to update rules for notice and take down.


SECOND SESSION OF COPYRIGHT STAKEHOLDER DIALOGUE FOCUSES ON ENFORCEMENT: Tuesdays meeting on the EU copyright directives Article 17 gave the floor to the audiovisual industry, whose approach to copyright is different from the music sectors.

Stakeholders, such as the European Producers Club and the Motion Picture Association (which represents Hollywood studios and Netflix) said the business model is based on exclusive licensing and making sure unlicensed content doesnt appear online. “Any practice that would go for licenses instead of the protection of content would be inconsistent with the directive,” said the MPA, referring to future transpositions in EU countries.

On content recognition technologies: The audiovisual industry said content recognition technologies are currently not effective enough. The “tools need to be improved, and interoperability between tools should be favored,” said a representative for French media conglomerate Vivendi. Edima, a tech lobby that represents Google and Facebook, said lawmakers and stakeholders should keep in mind that not every platform is Google: “YouTube is one thing, but they are way ahead of the game compared to other platforms.”

On enforcement costs: Both rights holders and platforms raised the issue of costs. Audiovisual players said they had to spend a lot of money to track their content online themselves manually. “We have invested a lot to monitor our content, especially to compensate the lack of monitoring from the platforms,” said Vivendi.

Platforms — YouTube but not only — also highlighted the investments needed to comply with the directive. Vimeo, which unlike YouTube doesnt own content recognition technology, mentioned the costs of partnering with content recognition tech companies and the costs of licensing with rights holders.

Meanwhile, the images industry wants licences, but cant get them from platforms, said stakeholders such as Cepic. Getty Images asked the Commission to include in the upcoming guidelines that licenses cannot be granted against non-monetary compensation.

Next meetings: Copyright stakeholders will gather again on November 25, for what the Commissions Giuseppe Abbamonte called “the second phase of the dialogue.” He said he expected more detailed presentations on market practices, licenses and content identification. The third phase will start with another meeting on December 16.

DUTCH ISP DOESNT HAVE TO PROVIDE INFO ON ALLEGED PIRATES: A Dutch Court of Appeal said that internet service provider Ziggo doesnt have to give the personal data of alleged pirates to movie distributor Dutch Filmworks, who wanted to ask them for damages. Read more on TorrentFreak.


WARNINGS ABOUT ELECTION INTERFERENCE GO UNHEARD: Over the last 18 months, British regulators, lawmakers and officials have been banging the drum for the need to update the countrys decades-old election laws for the digital age. But ahead of Decembers nationwide vote, nothing has changed. A combination of “Brexit fatigue” and fears that any changes could put the 2016 referendum in doubt have put the country on the frontline in the global battle to fight online abuse, misinformation and potential foreign interference. Read here or below for Marks inside look at how the U.K. failed to prepare for digital politicking.

UK MINISTERS WANT ONE-STOP-SHOP SOCIAL MEDIA ADVICE FOR ELECTION CANDIDATES: The U.K. government urged social media companies to work together to advise candidates running in the countrys upcoming general election on reporting abusive and intimidatory content on their platforms. At the final meeting of Boris Johnsons Cabinet before parliament is dissolved and an election is held on December 12, ministers agreed to write to social media companies to demand a “single one-stop shop piece of advice for candidates.”

They want the document to set out for candidates which content breaches their terms and conditions, where candidates can report breaches and what response candidates should expect from social media companies, the U.K. prime ministers spokesman said. Social media companies will also be urged to work with officials and political parties, and to have “an open and regular dialogue” with the security services, police and electoral authorities throughout the campaign, the spokesman said.

BRITISH USERS DONT BELIEVE IN WHAT THEY SEE ONLINE: More than two in five (41%) regular social media users in the U.K. feel they have seen inaccurate content over the last month, and nearly a fifth of them go even further and say theyve seen completely false content, according to a new YouGov poll.


IBM WEIGHS IN ON FACIAL RECOGNITION DEBATE: In a position paper posted on its web site, the U.S. tech giant acknowledged the broad risks posed by facial recognition technology but also said policymakers should understand that “not all technology lumped under the umbrella of facial recognition is the same.”

No bans, please: “We believe a precision regulation approach can inform a reasonably-balanced governance framework for facial recognition systems,” the company writes. But “blanket bans on technology are not the answer to concerns around specific use cases,” the paper adds. “Casting such a wide regulatory net runs the very real risk of cutting us off from the many – and potentially life-saving –benefits these technologies offer.”


FRENCH SENATE REJECTS MOBILITY REFORM: But that wont stop the bill from becoming law. Senators backed a motion by Didier Mandelli, a center-right senator, to suspend debates without considering further amendments. The gargantuan bill, which covers policies ranging from platform workers rights to a framework for micro-mobility, autonomous cars and low emission zones, is the first overhaul in over 35 years. Mandelli argued the National Assembly failed to include provisions to ensure that authorities charged with improving public transport links in rural regions will get the necessary funding. Senators blamed the lack of financing for the collapse of compromise talks with the National Assembly in July.

Next steps: The reform will now return to the National Assembly, which will have the last word, for a final reading. According to a draft agenda, that could take place November 19.


TIKTOK PUSHES BACK ON US DEFIANCE: The Chinese app is asserting its independence from the Chinese government to members of the U.S. Senate, according to a letter obtained by our U.S. colleague Steven Overly. In the letter, TikTok U.S. general manager Vanessa Pappas, a former YouTube executive, writes that the company, despite being owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, doesnt store any user data in China, nor does it “remove content based on sensitivities related to China (or other countries).” TikTok is under fire in Washington for alleged ties to the Chinese government.


ALEXA WANTS TO KNOW YOUR FUTURE WISHES: Rather than just wait for and respond to requests, the next generation of Amazons virtual assistant Alexa will anticipate what the user might want, Rohit Prasad, Alexas head scientist, told the MIT Technology Review: “The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life.”

TWEET DU JOUR: Responding to comments by whistleblower Edward Snowden that the “GDPR is not the solution — the problem is with data collection, not data use” the European Commissions Paul Nemitz, one of the architects of the GDPR, shot back by tweeting that “the big difference to US law is that #GDPRlimits collection, not just use.”

Morning Tech wouldnt happen without Marion Solletty, Nicholas Vinocur and Zoya Sheftalovich.


UK ignores warnings of digital election interference

— By Mark Scott | View in your browser

LONDON — As the U.K. general election gets underway, the government has done little to protect voters from malicious and foreign influence online.

Despite a slew of warnings from regulators and politicians, British ministers have not acted to fix vulnerabilities in the U.K.s antiquated electoral laws. That has raised fears that the December 12 poll will once again be marred by clandestine digital political interference.

“We have to expect that the current system will remain broken,” said Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the U.K. parliaments digital committee that is investigating online disinformation. “Shadowy campaign groups that support different interests, but are not officially connected to any one political party, will make themselves heard online.”

The failure to act, according to several U.K. politicians, civil servants and regulators who spoke to POLITICO, stems from widespread concern that any revamp of electoral rules could bring up uncomfortable questions about the legality of the 2016 Brexit referendum. They also warned the countrys pending departure from the European Union had overshadowed almost all other policymaking, including the need to update the U.K.s electoral rules for the digital age.

Many of the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing regulatory push to update the countrys electoral rules.

The previous government had recognized that urgent action was needed to shore up the U.K.s democracy, and in her final days in No. 10 Downing Street, Theresa May decided it was time to get tough.

In some of the most aggressive plans announced anywhere in the Western world, London said it wanted to clamp down on online abuse and digital election interference.

The proposals, published in early May just before the Conservative prime minister announced her resignation, included going after those who bullied others online; boosting transparency efforts when groups bought digital political ads; and restricting how foreign donors could give to local parties.

But as the British parliament shuts down Wednesday and the country enters full-blown campaign mode — nothing has changed.

Warning after warning

U.K. lawmakers failure to respond to increasingly sophisticated digital political tactics has put the country on the frontline in a global battle to protect elections in an era of Facebook political ads, growing mistrust in media outlets and mounting tribalism over Brexit.

Since the 2016 referendum, regulators including the British privacy watchdog and Electoral Commission, which oversees the countrys polls, havRead More – Source