Supported by the European Commission Jean Monnet Center of Excellence (2020-23).
Commission President von der Leyen has identified digital technology, along with climate change and geopolitics, as an area having profound implications for European citizens. She has also called for the EU to “strive for digital leadership” and to strengthen its “strategic autonomy,” while staying true to European values. At the same time, technology competition between the US and China has intensified dramatically, with knock-on implications for Europe, as the US objection to Huawei’s 5G technology vividly illustrates. The project will focus on the differences in the US and EU’s approaches to regulating digital technologies across a range of issues – from security to competition to privacy. The project will consider both the effectiveness of the different approaches and how the values underpinning them can provoke conflict.
The associated workpackages are:
Capacity in the face of globalization (Alasdair Young)
In the past few years, governments have become concerned about a range of issues associated with transnational digital technology companies: abuse of market power, use of personal data, circulation of dubious content, tax avoidance. The United States and the European Union, as the world’s two largest markets, have been at the forefront of these questions. How governments are responding to digital transnational corporations is a particularly interesting question because they arguably represent the pinnacle of the rootless/border-transcending transnational corporation. Regulating their behavior, therefore, should be a ‘hard’ case for government regulatory capability. This comparative analysis would yield insights into why jurisdictions respond to the challenges of globalization the way they do and into the relative effectiveness of different responses.
Project would exploit two valuable dimensions of comparison. First, the US and EU confront essentially the same functional challenges. The analysis, therefore, would explore the extent to which their responses to similar problems are similar or different and explain observed differences. Second, each of the functional challenges presents a different problem specification to each jurisdiction. This enables comparison of responses across challenges within each jurisdiction. There would thus be two within case comparisons: across challenges within jurisdictions and across jurisdictions within challenges.
Race to the Top: The EU’s Capacity to lead in ‘Ethical and Secure’ Artificial Intelligence (Vicki Birchfield)
The EU has declared its ambition to “become the world-leading region on developing and deploying cutting-edge, ethical and secure AI” (https://ec.europa.eu/digitalsingle-market/en/news/coordinated-plan-artificial-intelligence), yet Europe is trailing both the United States and China in commercial applications and technological developments in the AI and related technologies sector. This project investigates the EU’s stated goals and actions thus far and monitors its on-going developments at the Union and the Member State levels to evaluate the EU’s prospects for simultaneously shaping the AI global governance architecture and coordinating EU Member States’ research and economic competitiveness. Acknowledging that Europe is a mostly an economic and commercial laggard in this space, the research will probe to what extent its market and regulatory power may or may not equip the EU satisfactorily to cultivate and defend what it defines as “ethical and secure” AI. The competition and governance challenges of AI also facilitate a further test of the EU’s potential as a normative power in increasingly hyper-connected global economy.
Drawing on Castro, McLaughlin and Chivot’s (2019) empirical study of AI developments in China, the US and the EU, the project seeks to build on and update this initial research by further mapping out where the EU is situated in terms of its current technological development and commercial competitiveness in the AI sector vis-à-vis China and the United States. It also adds an important layer to the analysis by elucidating the EU’s values-based guiding framework and specific ethical principles in its various policy documents and strategies and assesses the compatibilities and/or fundamental differences between the EU’s approach versus that of the United States and China as well as multilateral institutions engaged in the debates such as the OECD. The inclusion of ethical principles in its policy strategy may indeed set the EU apart from its two competitors where China prioritizes the exploitation of AI and related technologies for social control and United States resists regulation in the name of profit maximization and innovation. The critical test will be whether the exploitation of the EU’s market and regulatory power equip it sufficiently to establish its leadership capacity as a global ethical rule-maker. Various comparative, historical and policy analytic case studies are deployed to measure such capacity.
Governing the Digital Economy Paired Workshops and Edited Volume
Commission President von der Leyen identified ‘creating a Europe fit for the digital age’ as one of the headline ambitions for her Commission. In her mission letter to Commissioner Vestager, she highlighted the need for the need to strengthen the EU’s ‘technological leadership and strategic autonomy.’ In this context, the issues concern the taxation of digital services, the ethical handling of artificial intelligence, ensuring fair competition, protecting privacy and guaranteeing security. This pair of workshops would draw together scholars who are experts on the external impact of the EU’s regulations with scholars who have specialized in the digital economy. The papers would compare US and EU debates and approaches to these challenges, thus they would pay attention to both the politics behind action/inaction and the regulatory outcomes. In addition, the papers would explore how the US and EU’s regulatory choices interact to highlight gaps and conflicts.
The project would unfold over two workshops, which would take place during the spring of 2021 and 2022. The first would take place at Georgia Tech’s campus in Metz and to which we would invite European policy makers. At this symposium we would discuss preliminary drafts and a preliminary analytical framework. Revised versions of the papers would be presented at the second workshop in Atlanta, to which we would invite local government and business representatives, as well as members of the European consular corps. After further revisions, the papers would be submitted to a journal, such as Regulation and Governance, as a special issue or to a publisher as an edited volume. Papers would be made available as working papers.