France’s President Emmanuel Macron has taken a jab at Washington by saying that its policies relating to the tech industry are at the hands of corporations. A quite surprising statement for one of America’s closest allies.
The French leader said that US policies, in fact, fall short of being a paragon of democracy – at least when it comes to regulating the field of modern technology – as big business has seemingly too much of a say in formulating Washington’s approaches in this sphere.
“The United States is a formidable continent but they have a model which is completely steered by big private sector players and which is no longer subject to democratic checks and balances,” Macron said at a question and answer session at a technology forum in Paris, where he championed the idea of protecting European companies from being devoured by foreign, and particularly US, corporate giants.
The French president did not stop at that and added that such a laissez-faire approach has led to a situation, in which America does not in fact have a government that is capable of guaranteeing its citizens’ privacy rights at the face of corporate privacy intrusion. He was also equally critical of the Chinese regulation model by calling it over-restrictive.
Macron also vowed that, in contrast to all the foreign technology regulation models, which he was so keen to portray as flawed, a European model would be “competitive, innovative … democratic and driven by the common good.” He also expressed his desire to make Europe a global “standard bearer” for tougher regulation of digital technology.
While being apparently eager to point out the US’ mistakes, Macron omitted the fact that his policies were not really close to the ideals of democracy either, particularly in the field of regulating content on the internet.
Earlier this year, he pushed for social media platforms to ban users guilty of “hate speech” from their platforms for life, just a week after espousing a novel definition of hate speech that included anti-Zionism in its meaning. His latest words also come on the heels of Washington’s decision not to endorse a new global initiative supposedly aimed at combating “violent extremism,” which France championed together with New Zealand.
The ‘Christchurch Call’, named after the New Zealand city in which an Australian gunman murdered 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques back in March, lays out comprehensive measures for restricting the spread of content deemed “violent extremist” or “terrorist.” The initiative unveiled by Macron and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does not really define what it deems to be “extremist.”
Citing First Amendment concerns, the US declined to back the initiative, which involves closer cooperation between corporations, NGOs, and law enforcement as well as special “incident management teams” that would apparently be able to “broadly distribute” supposedly right information “in the public interest.” It said it supports its overall goals, though.
Such a response apparently did not sit well with Macron, who vowed to “do everything” to get a “more formal” commitment from Washington.
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