Hope and IoT Data: An Update on the EU’s Data Act 

The debate about the proposed Data Act is in full swing. The lead rapporteur for the Data Act, Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP ES) in the Industry Committee, has published her draft report with proposed amendments. Other MEPs have until 28 October to propose their own changes. While there is some hope that amendments will effectively limit the sui generis database right (SGDR), the provisions for Internet of Things (IoT) data sharing that cement the factual data holders’ strong position currently remain largely unquestioned.

Authors: Aline Blankertz & Dimi Dimitrov

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Artificial Intelligence Act: what is the European Union regulating?

Analysis

In this installment of series of longer features on our blog we analyse the scope of the AI Act as proposed by the European Commission and assess it adequacy in the context of impact of AI in practice.

AI is going to shape the Internet more and more and through it access to information and production of knowledge. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata are supported by machine learning tools and their role will grow in the following years. We are following the proposal for the Artificial Intelligence Act that, as the first global attempt to legally regulate AI, will have consequences for our projects, our communities and users around the world. What are we really talking about when we speak of AI? And how much of it do we need to regulate?

The devil is in the definition

It is indispensable to define the scope of any matter to be regulated, and in the case of AI that task is no less difficult than for “terrorist content” for example. There are different approaches as to what AI is taken in various debates, from scientific ones to popular public perceptions. When hearing “AI”, some people think of sophisticated algorithms – sometimes inside an android – undertaking complex, conceptual and abstract tasks or even featuring a form of self-consciousness. Some include in the definition algorithms that modify their operations based on comparisons between and against large amounts of data for example, without any abstract extrapolation.

The definition proposed by the European Commission in the AI Act lists software developed with specifically named techniques; among them machine learning approaches including deep learning, logic- and knowledge-based approaches, as well as statistical approaches including Bayesian estimation, search and optimization methods. The list is quite broad and it clearly encompasses a range of technologies used today by companies, internet platforms and public institutions alike.

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Update on Net Neutrality in the EU

Net Neutrality in the EU seemed like a topic of the past. Something we dealt with, secured and could turn our attention to other issues now. Two significant recent developments show that it remains a dynamic policy field and that we mustn’t forget about it. After all, we want an information infrastructure that allows all users to have equal access not only to Wikipedia and its sister projects, but also to all the citations and sources.  

Bad news from the Commission

Very large telecoms companies have wanted to make very large online platforms pay for network use for a while. Now they seem to have found a like-minded EU Commissioner in the face of Margrethe Vestager. The argument of the Danish politician is a modern classic for the EU. It boils down to the fact that very large platforms are responsible for a bulk of the internet traffic, but according to telecoms companies are not paying their fair share to fund the infrastructure. 

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UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

In late 2021, the UNESCO General Assembly approved a new Recommendation on Open Science. All the member states agreed on a final version, that for the first time provides an official definition of what open science is, and that calls for legal and policy changes in favor of open science. As a recommendation is the strongest policy tool of UNESCO, “intended to influence the development of national laws and practices”, this is important news for the entire scientific community. 

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China rejects Wikimedia from important UN body


Many international organisations have made commitments to improve transparency and civil society participation. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) apparently continues to see things differently. On Monday, six Wikimedia chapters were denied observer status at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.

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DSA: Political Deal done!

European Union (EU) lawmakers have agreed on a political deal to establish general online content moderation rules. Several cornerstones include a notice-and-action regime, Commission oversight over very large platforms and certain rules for terms of services.

After the political deal, some technical wording remains to be worked on. The deal is expected to be voted on in Parliament in July 2022. We have previously compared the three stances from a free knowledge point of view. We also analysed the state of negotiations in April 2022. Here is an analysis of the trilogue deal, based on what we know. 

We welcome that during the deliberations  lawmakers began making a distinction between rules created and imposed by the services provider and rules written and applied by volunteer editing communities. It is a pity that “citizen moderation”, something the internet needs more of, wasn’t recognised explicitly.

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DSA: Trilogues Update

European Union (EU) lawmakers are under a lot of self-imposed pressure to reach an agreement on content moderation rules that will apply to all platforms. Several cornerstones have been placed either at the highest political levels (e.g., banning targeted ads directed at minors) or agreed upon on a technical level (e.g., notice-and-action procedures). But there is still no breakthrough on a few other articles, like the newly floated “crisis response mechanism.”  

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DMA: heated trilogue negotiations concluded with partial interoperability gains

On Thursday March 24th the trilogue negotiators concluded discussions, dramatic at times, over the Digital Markets Act. The compromise includes some gains on interoperability, a potential changemaker in the online intermediation. What to expect? Where not to hold your breath? We parse out the practical consequences of the trilogue outcome on interoperability.

Winding road to the final compromise

Interoperability has been a point of contention since the European Commission published their first draft in December 2020. The EC drafted it narrowly, obligating gatekeepers to offer interoperability to the so-called ancillary services, like payment or identification services, that wish to operate within closed ecosystems. IMCO Rapporteur MEP Andreas Schwab followed this approach in his draft report. 

That didn’t go well with many MEPs who were disappointed with the fact that an opportunity to open up walled gardens of online intermediation had not been exploited. Many amendments and heated debates later, the final EP report provided that interconnection should be also possible between messaging apps and services (the so-called number independent interpersonal communication services) as well as social networks.

Since the Council’s approach was focused on refining the business-to-business side of interoperability, the trilogues didn’t show much promise in securing the extension of the EC’s scope. Somehow, under pressure of time the delegation of MEPs managed to negotiate some gains that keep the spirit if not the letter of the EP mandate.

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Debate: AI and the Commons – solutions to be found only beyond licences

While we surely must not shy away from looking at what develops with and around Open Content and for solutions of harmful effects we must seek beyond the licensing level. We shouldn’t try to leverage copyright as a prohibitive means unless we are willing to sacrifice the idea of the Open Content altogether.

Read the introduction to the debate

Read Anna Mazgal’s take on the issue

New technologies mean new dark sides

The breathtaking potential of automated systems includes a breathtaking danger of abuse. One might argue, however, that facial recognition is not actually an application of artificial intelligence technology, but a rather sophisticated method of pattern recognition combined with an instance of deep learning mechanisms. We should widen the scope to the digital content used for enhancing autonomous systems or automation in general – the term Automated Decision-Making, ADM, comes to mind. 

Nobody interested in digital technology, the internet, and fundamental rights should disengage from the debate around such systems and how to regulate them. At the same time we have to be quite precise about the types of content we are talking about. It’s not only because the property of being open (in the meaning of the open definition and the definition of Free Cultural Works) is key here. Also because the possible means for regulation differ according to the content in question.

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