POLITICO Pro Morning Tech, presented by RTL Group: Christchurch call redux — Social media ongoing EU woes — Bruno Le Maire on digital tax

POLITICO Pro Morning Tech
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By Mark Scott

With Laurens Cerulus, Laura Kayali, Annabelle Dickson, Nicholas Vinocur and Janosch Delcker


— Macron says non to Trumps ban on Huawei

Facebook and Twitter are back in the news when it comes to the EU elections

Frances Bruno Le Maire talks digital tax and national champions

Good morning and welcome to Morning Tech. Only a week to go before the EU elections. Morning Tech hopes youre all registered to vote. Send tips to,, and

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Our weekly Tech calendar landed in your inbox Thursday. You can also go online to export and plan your week or suggest your own event.


CHRISTCHURCH CALL — WHERE DO WE GO NOW? The tech party is coming to an end in Paris, (though VivaTech is just getting started), and as global leaders and tech executives jet home, there are still many unanswered questions about whether the so-called “Christchurch Call” will have an effect on curbing violent content online.

Much has been made of the United States decision not to sign up (though the U.S. is a signatory to a similar G7 initiative). But with several European governments pushing ahead with national online harms proposals (Morning Tech is looking at you, France and the United Kingdom), the voluntary commitments outlined this week may soon be subsumed by legally-binding rules at a national level that arent likely to be met with the same bonhomie that we witnessed in Paris.

To get a sense of what this all means, Morning Tech dialed up David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression (who also has a book coming out on internet global governance):

On the role of governments: “I have sympathy for the place that governments are in. They are jealous of platforms power, and they should be. These are matters of public importance and governments should play a role. My concern is the approach they are taking. Many focus on the near-term, but dont think about the long-term environment they are creating.”

On the role of tech companies: “Right now, its up to the companies to decide what is, and isnt, lawful. Were sending the fundamental decision about what is free speech into an opaque space that is beyond the democratic process. For future generations of voters, this will become the framework that informs their way of thinking about how freedom of speech is monitored.”

On Europes response and its effects worldwide: “The discourse has centered around the dangers of online speech. That makes it easier for transitional countries to say they share those concerns of the West and then they prepare legislation that harms domestic free speech. The language of the West can give support to governments to do such things.”

On the role of the US: “The narrow movements looking at speech are primarily based around political campaigns. I dont really see a real conversation in Washington around speech regulation, its highly politicized in the United States.”

**A message from RTL Group: Fake news is a threat to democracy and, as a media organization, we must address it seriously. We want to be part of the solution in the fight against online disinformation. Read more about RTL Groups recent innovation challenge “Factory — Filtering Fakes from Facts.”**


BRUNO LE MAIRE DISHES THE DIRT: POLITICOs Ryan Heath sat down with the French finance minister, and heres what he had to say on digital tax and the need for European champions in the battery industry and for artificial intelligence:

On digital tax: “The equation of taxation will be at the heart of the French finance G7. The key issue for us is the question of a fair efficient taxation for international giants. We are making a proposal with the support of Germany which is very much involved in that minimum taxation for corporate tax. We also have the support of the U.S.”

On national champions: “When we have decided with Peter Altmaier to build a new industry for batteries, the idea behind that is really to be sovereign and to build the European sovereignty in a key technology which are the electric batteries. The choice is quite simple. Do we want to be dependent on cheap Chinese or South Korean batteries for the automotive industry or do we want to be independent and to have our own electric batteries produced either in Germany or in France with the support of other nations like Poland Sweden and Spain? My choice is quite clear. I want a free independent and sovereign Europe in the field of new technologies like batteries or artificial intelligence.”


FREE FLOW, NO FREE FLYING: Brussels Airport went into shutdown yesterday morning, leaving not only our reporter Laurens stranded, but also Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, who was on his way to Estonia for debates and press interviews, as part of his campaign to win a seat in the next EU Parliament.

The Estonian had come back from Paris, where he spent Wednesday evening at a dinner, and lauded French President Emmanuel Macron for his efforts on digital. “Hes a true European,” Ansip said of Macron, as he showed a picture of the night before showing the two together. (Picture is here, though Morning Tech spotted Jack Ma and Justin Trudeau in the background.) Above all, the Commissions free flow of data efforts wouldnt have happened without Macron, Ansip said. “He helped a lot,” he said.

Ansip was kind to his colleague in the Commission, security czar Julian King, too. The VP said King often backed him in College meetings because both took a moderate approach on the question of whether or not to slap internet companies with stronger rules and regulations. “When I intervened [in debates], he often supported me, and when he intervened I did the same,” Ansip said. (Morning Tech is meeting King today, so well ask him if he feels the same.)

Ansip blogged, too: Another day, another blog from everyones favorite Estonian Vice President about geo-blocking and access to content. Morning Tech was disappointed to see no reference to watching Estonian soccer matches from Brussels.


TRUMPS AHA MOMENT ON HUAWEI & EUROPE: The telecom world was still abuzz still after the U.S. announcement that it had signed an order laying the groundwork for a full ban on Huawei, and tough measures affecting how the company can buy goods from its U.S. supply chain.

In Europe, though: different story. French President Emmanuel Macron was quick to say “Our perspective is not to block Huawei or any company.” More on Macron, here. In the U.K., Prime Minister Theresa Mays official spokesman said: “We are reviewing the right policy approach for 5G and when an announcement is ready, the Culture Secretary will update Parliament.”

This matches a long process of Europe getting behind a measured approach on telecom supply chain security, and Huawei. (We first wrote about it here in February). That includes the latest political fix of scrapping Huawei from “core” networks but allowing it in “non-core” networks — even if engineers and insiders alike question the merits of this distinction in future 5G networks.

REALITY OF 5G: Amid all the Huawei hype, its often easy to forget that the technology may be farther out than most people may think. According to Gartner, the research firm, less than half of the worlds telecoms operators will have unveiled widespread 5G networks by 2025, and even those that do may mostly be relying on existing 4G technology, instead of the ultrafast 5G variety.


FACEBOOK SHUTS POLISH DISINFO PAGES: The social media company shut down 27 Polish pages that had a total of some 1.9 million followers following an investigation by activist group Avaaz. The groups were taken down for misleading page names, the use of duplicate accounts, hate speech violations, inauthentic pages and spam behavior, according to Avaaz.

Many of the pages shut down had names like “Loan via the Internet,” or “Funnies,” but were spreading politically divisive content or disinformation, Avaaz added. Others shared content from outlets like or, which mimicked the names of well-known investigative journalism outlets, and

Christoph Schott, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: “Facebook has acted quickly to take this down in Poland, but any doctor will tell you that prevention is better than cure. Before the EU elections, Facebook should run a full and urgent health check on its platform in Europe and take down all the dishonest and toxic content it finds.”

Facebook confirmed it had taken down a number of accounts following Avaazs probe. “We have removed a number of fake and duplicate accounts that were violating our authenticity policies, as well as multiple Pages for name change and other violations. We will take further action if we find additional violations,” a spokesperson said.

TWITTER IN HOT WATER IN GERMANY: It all started so well. Ahead of the EU elections, the company released an online tool to flag potentially false narratives spread on its network. But it turns out, that process is mostly automated, meaning that far-right groups have been using it to block their opponents online and suppress certain messaging against the countrys Alternative for Deutschland, according to a Bundestag hearing. Examples of blocked content include an article about why the Israeli ambassador to Germany did not meet with the AfD, and the Twitter account of SPD State Secretary, Sawsen Chebli, for mocking an anti-Islamic meme from the AfDs social media account.

In response, Twitter told German lawmakers that it had removed 10 times the amount of flagged disinformation in Germany than in any other EU country, but the company denied that the blocked accounts and content raised by far-right groups had been done by algorithms. Instead, the social network said that humans had made those decisions, but those individuals were not based in Germany.


COMMISSIONS CONSULTATION ON STANDARD CHARGERS FOR MOBILE PHONE: The EU executive body seeks feedback on the “current situation for chargers for mobile phones and other portable devices,” as voluntary agreements between mobile phone producers are expiring. Stakeholders are invited to answer to a bunch of questions on safety concerns, financial costs and environmental concerns. The Commission also asks whether EU should create a standard charger for mobile phones. The consultation is open until August 6.


CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY RANKINGS: Tech companies do not have the best reputations at the moment. So Ranking Digital Rights (which compiles an annual list of how these companies rate on a number of corporate governance metrics) has done the work for you, placing Microsoft at the top of the pile when it comes to this years rankings. Google comes second, while Facebook finishes a respectable fourth, leading Morning Tech to wonder: what does a company have to do to finish lower than Facebook? Read the full report here.

HEADS UP — NEW ELECTION INTEGRITY REPORT: The European Commission on Friday is expected to come out with its latest monthly report on how Facebook, Twitter and Googles YouTube are coping with misinformation ahead of the EU election, according to a person with knowledge of the planning.

**Are you enjoying this day of free access to POLITICO Pro Technology? Stay ahead of the curve on the tech challenges impacting the mobility sector and register for our 3rd Connected Mobility Summit, happening on October 8 in Amsterdam.**


CYBER SANCTIONS: The EU is beefing up measures to rein in foreign hacker groups. Economic ministers are expected to adopt the EUs new “cyber sanctions” regime today, days before a European Parliament election that is seen as a prime target for hacking. The plan includes asset freezes and travel bans.

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