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Technologies: In 2019, ethics will have to be at the heart of the European debate.

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In 2018, the European Commission has adopted a pragmatic approach to address the shortcomings of the technology giants. 2019 is likely to be the dawn of a " éthique technologique " where consumers expect their rights to be respected in the digital realm as they are in their daily lives. Policy makers will thus force the technology giants to abide by the same rules as the industry in general.
 
"Aechnology can amplify the worst tendencies of human beings," said Apple CEO Tim Cook at an event at the European Parliament in October. «It can deepen divisions, incite violence, undermine our common sense of what is true and what is false. This crisis is real.
 

Fake news and ethics

According to Tim Cook, the spread of false information will continue to undermine our sense of what is true or false in the run-up to the European elections in May 2019.
Russia will continue throughout the year to play a leading role in the dissemination of fake news. After an interview with an undercover journalist in October, Euractiv discovered that Russia must certainly be well engaged in its disinformation campaign aimed at the European elections.
 
In December, the Commission presented its action plan on misinformation, which aims to counter the wave of misinformation in the run-up to the elections. A code of conduct against misinformation was proposed and a group of technology giants, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, pledged to follow it.
The code is a self-regulatory framework that aims to put pressure on platforms to moderate and manage misinformation. A review of the effectiveness of the code is expected to be presented in January 2019.
 
As social media are the main culprits for the lack of an ethical framework for dealing with misinformation, many believe that these platforms will be affected in 2019, with users opting instead for mainly image-based social networks such as Instagram or Snapchat.
It is therefore also to be expected that the "deepfakes"(high quality doctored images and videos) become more important in 2019.
 

Taxation and ethics

Another area where divisions will need to be bridged is digital taxation. In this area, 2019 could offer some kind of breakthrough.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire recently announced that France would develop its own national framework for taxing the digital giants, while Spain and the UK have already started to formulate their own plans.
In the meantime, Austrian Sebastian Kurz has announced that Austria will propose its own measures which should come into force in 2020.
 
The idea of a single tax on digital services is already a wake-up call for the digital giants, but if each Member State introduces its own tax framework, this fragmentation is also likely to be detrimental to businesses. With the risk of countless trade-offs between regulators and technology giants, the debate on digital taxation will intensify in 2019.
 

Artificial intelligence and ethics

Ethics will also become a major consideration in the field of artificial intelligence. In an EU report by a high-level European Commission expert group published in December, a number of " graves préoccupations " for the future of AI were highlighted, covering issues related to citizen ratings, secret artificial intelligence, facial identification technologies and lethal autonomous weapon systems.
The report will be finalized in March 2019 and the recommendations made are expected to have a significant impact on how policy will stem the development of AI in 2019.
 
Still in the research and development phase, the path towards greater commercial availability of autonomous vehicles will become clearer in 2019. This will raise a range of ethical considerations, including the famous " dilemme from tramway " in which an autonomous vehicle will have to make moral decisions when faced with a scenario where two negative outcomes are inevitable.
For example, if a collision is unavoidable, on what moral criteria should the car make the decision to collide with an elderly woman or a child? enfant ?
 

Connectivity and Ethics

At EU level, a decision has yet to be finalised in the context of the controversial Commission delegated act on the future regulation of autonomous vehicles. The big question in this respect is whether the EU will support 5G or WiFi connectivity for these vehicles.
 
Ethics will undoubtedly play a role in the Commission's final decision, and many consider that WiFi is preferable in this respect, because of its ability to communicate at critical moments, which will help to avoid accidents.
 

Copyright and Ethics

In addition, artists and content creators from around the world will unite in 2019 to put pressure on EU negotiators to reach an agreement on the highly contentious copyright reform. Negotiations between Council and Parliament are at a final stage, but the directive, which aims to ensure that content creators are fairly remunerated for their work online, has been the source of much dissent among MEPs.
 
Supporters of the reform see these measures as a way to safeguard the future of the creative industries, while opponents say they could jeopardise the freedom of the web. Both sides believe that this is an ethical challenge that will have far-reaching consequences, whatever the outcome.
 
2019 will be a year in which ethics will be central to almost all digital records. EU policy-makers will strive to reach a general ethical consensus to which the technology giants will have to adhere. Citizens across the continent will expect their rights to be protected in the digital realm as everywhere else.
 
Source: Euractiv/Samuel Stolton
 

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