By Joanna Plucinska, with help from Laurens Cerulus, Zachary Young, Jakob Hanke and Mark Scott | Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com | View in your browser
FAKE NEWS CHALLENGE: When someone says fake news, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Russian hackers meddling in elections? Macedonian teenagers earning a buck on Facebook? Maybe a certain leader of the free world? All good guesses. But for roughly two-thirds of people polled by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, fake news is mostly associated with slanted or biased reports by the traditional press.
That’s certainly not what many in policymaking or media circles had envisaged when officials from Brussels to Paris to Washington all started looking to stop how digital misinformation was spread online. For many, it was tech companies, not traditional media outlets, that held the greatest responsibility for the proliferation of online misinformation, leading to a crackdown — and new legislation in countries like Germany — to hold these platforms accountable for what was published on them.
But with 66 percent of those polled in the Reuters Institute’s annual digital news report laying the blame at journalists pushing an agenda, it’s worth remembering that when it comes to “fake news,” it’s often more difficult to put your finger on it than you first might think.
And that will lead to ongoing headaches for those pushing to regulate the problem into oblivion. You’ll be hard pressed to find any mainstream Western politician who wouldn’t want to clamp down on Russian meddling or digital tricksters looking to make money out of out-right false reports. But how do you legislate for biased reporting? Or so-called “clickbait” headlines? That’s a much more difficult call to make, particularly when a lot of this slanted journalism does not qualify as illegal content.
So be careful what you wish for when it comes to legislating for fake news. It’s one thing to demand new regulation. But if the majority of people link the term to the traditional press, any such clampdown could inadvertently hamper people’s freedom of speech.
Hello and welcome to Morning Tech. Digital Vice President Andrus Ansip will be in London today to take part in the Founders Forum. Justice and Consumers Commissioner Věra Jourová is in Malta to speak at an event on the New Deal for Consumers. Digital Commissioner Mariya Gabriel is in Sofia, Bulgaria, to give a speech at a conference on digital public administrations. Read the Commissioners’ full agendas online.
In Council, the telecoms working party will meet to discuss the e-Privacy Regulation.
London Tech Week continues. The European Commission’s Annual Privacy Forum continues in Barcelona, Spain. The Scientific Conference on Cyber Defense continues in Sofia. Europe’s telecom regulator BEREC continues its plenary meetings today.
CYBER —KASPERSKY SUSPENDS WORK WITH EUROPOL: The Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab froze collaboration with EU law enforcement agency Europol after the European Parliament Wednesday called for a ban of Kaspersky products. The firm said late on Wednesday it was freezing cooperation “until we receive further official clarifications from the European Parliament.” More from Laurens here.
Why? MEPs approved the first EU document that asks to ban Kaspersky products in the EU institutions, tucked at the end of a cyber defense report calling for more resources to be devoted to military and defensive cyber capabilities. Polish MEP Anna Fotyga, a Conservative and security hawk, got the amendment approved in committee, MEPs voted it through in plenary and now it’s an official position of the European Parliament that Kaspersky is “confirmed as malicious” and needs to be banned. (Kaspersky strongly disagrees, obviously.)
Fotyga defended her contribution to Morning Tech saying: “The threat is well-known, what we have concluded is that our response mechanisms, attribution capabilities and resilience are increasing in cooperation with like-minded societies and institutions … on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Kaspersky reacts: “I do not wish to do anything to further encourage the balkanization of the internet, but I feel that the decision taken in Europe leaves me with no choice but to take definitive action,” Eugene Kaspersky, the controversial chief executive officer of the firm, said in the statement, calling it “a setback for the fight against cyber threat.”
Morning Tech sideline: This could backfire. The collaboration with Europol has stayed out of the public eye, but the EU police agency has worked with U.S. intelligence to fight cybercrime, and so pressure from Washington to cancel the collaboration entirely will only increase. The Dutch government too imposed restrictions on the company recently — and Europol’s HQ is based in The Hague.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT — ALBRECHT’S STRASBOURG GOODBYE: German Greens MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht spent his last day in the European Parliament hemicycle Wednesday. That makes this week’s plenary Albrecht’s last one. (His mandate as MEP officially ends July 2.)
The former rapporteur on the sweeping General Data Protection Regulation earned a reputation for wearing T-shirts with jackets as well as hipster glasses and standing up for very demanding privacy standards. He will start his new job in the fall as the minister for digital, agriculture and the environment in the German lander of Schleswig-Holstein. Contexte also ran an exit interview with the MEP, in which he said he doesn’t think the e-Privacy Regulation will make it through negotiations before the May 2019 European parliament elections — read it online (in French).
ILLEGAL CONTENT — INDUSTRY PUSHBACK: The Commission on Wednesday published a report analyzing platforms’ performance so far in flagging and removing terrorist content online. The verdict? There’s progress, but there needs to be more. The report dangled the ongoing threat of potential legislation on flagging, teasing an ongoing impact assessment into the matter. Not everyone in the tech sector is pleased. “Industry cooperation and dialogue with stakeholders, including European governments, are proving to be an effective approach. Rushed legislation could have damaging consequences for online companies and user rights,” said Maud Sacquet, a senior policy manager at tech industry representative, the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
**Don’t miss your special PRO discount for POLITICO’s second Connected Transport Summit taking place in Brussels on October 16. Register before June 15 and join over 130 top policymakers, experts, regulators and industry representatives to discuss how to shape the future of mobility in the digital era. Speakers include European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc, BlaBlaCar Founder and CEO Frédéric Mazzella, Volvo Cars Tech Fund’s CEO Zaki Fasihuddin, and MEP and Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism Karima Delli. We look forward to seeing you there!**
INVESTMENT SCREENING — EU COUNTRIES AGREE: EU countries agreed a common compromise position on investment screening Wednesday night among experts and diplomats in the COREPER. Two sources tell us that no country blocked the final compromise — even though countries like Portugal and Ireland had previously expressed concerns about the new law.
Let the games begin: With the agreement on a Council position, everyone is now on board for trilogues to start. Parliament’s rapporteur Franck Proust on Wednesday also received the official “go” for the trilogues — given that no group opposed his formal appointment as lead negotiator for the parliament.
Background: The investment screening law is pushed by the governments of Germany, France and Italy, which want to gird the EU against countries like China snatching up strategically important firms or security-related technologies. The EU is the only major economy that does not have such a law — the U.S. and China are both toughening their own screening laws.
The new proposal would force countries to exchange information on takeovers and allow the Commission to analyse investments that could have an impact on the security or public order of the EU. The law does not allow the Commission to block takeovers — that power will remain with national governments.
CYBERSECURITY — APPLE SAYS NO: Apple announced overnight that it would soon disable the ability to extract data from an iPhone or iPad using its Lightning charging port if the device has been locked for more than an hour, our U.S. colleague Eric Geller reports. In revealing the change, Apple said it was “constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data.” But the move will create severe complications for law enforcement agencies, which often bypass mobile devices’ encryption by plugging them into special products.
CRYPTOCURRENCY — FRENCH REGULATION PLANS: France Digitale, an industry group, has put out a 10-point plan calling for regulation of cryptocurrencies. A key point is calling on the Commission to develop a common standard for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Nicolas Brien, managing director of France Digitale, won’t stop at France. He wants to the G20 to focus on crypto, “rather than old-world topics like tariffs on steel and aluminum.” Zachary Young reported from Paris.
FINTECH — BREXIT CHARM OFFENSIVE: The U.K. government is looking to wine and dine financial technology firms so they don’t leave London in favor of other European locales. Brexodus? What Brexodus? Reuters has more.
AVMSD — COUNCIL SIGNS OFF: Deputy EU ambassadors on Wednesday checked off an agreement on new audiovisual media reforms. The final deal was agreed and ironed out in full last week after the last three-way negotiations. More from Council online.
PLATFORMS — HORROR ON YOUTUBE: Ads for horror films on YouTube have left parents — and their children — seriously distressed. The ads were reportedly shown before videos for songs from Frozen, the Advertising Standards Authority says. Here’s the full take from the BBC.
BIG TECH — TESLA CUTS: Tesla is set to cut thousands of jobs as it looks to boost the firm’s profitability. Most of the losses will be among salaried employees, not factory workers. The Guardian has more.
TELECOMS — BELGIAN MINISTER WANTS MORE: More telecom players, that is. Alexander De Croo, federal minister for telecom policy, told national media Wednesday that Belgium could do with a fourth telecom player on its market. According to the minister, a fourth player could trigger lower prices now, and more investment in 5G later.
MUST READ — PRIVACY’S LONG TAIL: The New Yorker magazine in this week’s issue muses on why we think what we think about privacy — from Muzak on buses all the way to Cambridge Analytica.
GIG ECONOMY — BLABLA IN RUSSIA: Ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar now has a larger market share in Russia than in its native France, Reuters reports. And the company plans to pump an additional €10 million into the country in the coming year.
Morning Tech wouldn’t be possible without Nicholas Vinocur and Zoya Sheftalovich.