On Tuesday 23 February, the Director General of CERRE, Bruno Liebhaberg addressed the Institute of International and European Affairs with a keynote speech titled “Regulating the Online Economy: Towards a Global Digital Deal?” followed by a Q&A.
In his address, Bruno Liebhaberg discussed the main benefits and challenges of the online platform economy, what is driving the demand for its regulation and the conditions and possible contents of a Global Digital Deal involving industry, governments and regulatory authorities.
Drawing analogies between some features of the online platform economy and Sergio Leone’s movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, Bruno Liebhaberg underlined the platforms’ benefits in terms of innovation, convenience and accessibility. Yet there is tension surrounding platforms. Areas of concern include the digital markets’ lack of contestability and fairness, some e-commerce practices, conduct on the platforms, and insufficient protection of users interacting with these. Bruno Liebhaberg then compared the different regulatory approaches adopted in the UK, the USA, Australia, China and in the European Union.
“The regulation of online platforms is driven by the need, felt in many parts of our societies in the EU and in a growing number of third countries, to take back control and restore trust, autonomy and fairness.”
In his discussion of a Global Digital Deal, the CERRE DG argued that the commonality of concerns and challenges should allow EU’s partners to overcome their different policy perspectives and values and engage in discussions with the Union on issues such as AI regulation, platforms’ responsibility, the promotion of global data flows, transparency of algorithms, taxation, etc.
“Because of their central role, the platforms have a key part to play in a conversation on global rules for their conduct. At the same time, public authorities must, ultimately, remain the orchestrator.”
According to Bruno Liebhaberg, it is realistic to envisage a Global Digital Deal in the form of a series of issue-specific bilateral and multilateral agreements between the EU, third country-partners and the economic agents involved.
“There is no time to lose. A Global Digital Deal will be a gradual process, but we must start now.”
Pointing to Europe’s role model in regulation and in particular to the latter’s value-based dimension, Bruno Liebhaberg concluded that the sooner the EU achieves a unified internal front on the regulatory proposals – in particular the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) – to address the platform economy challenges, the sooner it will have the leadership necessary to shape global conduct and move closer to its strategic digital autonomy objectives.