What we are currently working on: Newsletter April 2021

May 05, 2021

In Germany, platform regulation measures have been tested for several years. At the end of 2020, the European Commission also presented a draft law: The Digital Services Act (DSA). However, many questions on platform regulation remain open. One crucial question is: How can it be guaranteed that platforms comply with the rules of the EU proposal? Julian Jaursch is currently examining the proposed oversight structure and is compiling ideas for an EU-level Digital Services Coordinator. His paper is due to be published in May. 
Philippe Lorenz and Kate Saslow are currently looking at issues surrounding the patenting of artificial intelligence technologies (AI) and their geopolitical implications. How are AI systems currently patented or protected around the world? And what impact do they have on global competition? These are some of the central questions our experts are addressing this year. 
Our Digital Rights, Surveillance and Democracy team is currently advising several important processes with international organizations. For example, the OECD wants to find out what rules and standards apply in its member states when it comes to accessing and processing personal data collected by companies or other private actors. In this context, Thorsten Wetzling is analyzing what already unites the OECD member states in terms of control, transparency, and protection of fundamental rights. 


What we are reading  

Artificial intelligence (AI) is developing at a rapid pace. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to observe and understand the multitude of trends and changes. This report provides guidance on how to measure AI progress. Starting with the definition of "AI" and discussing different technical benchmarks and quantifying AI-driven value creation, the authors go on to define central problems of research in this field. Read by Pegah Maham
Understanding how large digital platforms are changing our economy, society and culture is seen as an important basis for effective regulation. This article by Issie Lapowsky describes the challenges scholars face in studying these platforms. The article gives insights into a research project that investigates, which political ads on Facebook are targeted to which group in society. To do this, the researchers used "data scraping" - a method to automatically collect publicly visible data. Facebook and other platforms consider this practice illegal, which puts the researchers at risk of being sued. How are policymakers supposed to develop rules for platforms if independent research on targeting for example is forbidden? A question that also arises in one of the EU's most comprehensive regulatory projects - the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Read by Aline Blankertz
The big tech companies have often been criticized for evading ethical principles and violating human rights. The lack of accountability on the corporate side has proven to be a constant challenge - especially in the context surrounding the use of AI. For example, the use of AI and machine learning in content moderation often clash with freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. In light of this development, a critical examination of Facebook's recent announcement and commitment to human rights is essential. It is noteworthy that Facebook as a company has taken a proactive step. Nevertheless, the issue still demands close attention. Read by Kate Saslow

Overview: Current publications and media contributions 

Cybersecurity Exercises for Policy Work (Impulse, English): In recent months, Rebecca Beigel and Julia Schuetze have taken a closer look at the instrument of so-called cybersecurity exercises. Such exercises are used, for example, to test or evaluate policies in cyber security. In their overview paper the two experts shed light on how various cybersecurity exercises can be used in policy work. 
Germany's Cybersecurity Architecture (Impulse, 6th edition, German and English): Our publication on the German and European cybersecurity architecture by Rebecca BeigelChristina Rupp and Sven Herpig is updated on a regular basis. For the first time, this publication is also available in English. In contrast to the last edition from October 2020, the sixth edition includes the German municipal level and the NATO level. 
The lack of semiconductor manufacturing in Europe (Policy Brief, English): For many years, Europe has fallen behind in the production of modern logic chips. The "2030 Digital Compass", a 10-year plan bytele the EU Commission, now aims to catch up with other countries and regions by investing several billion euros in European chip manufacturing. However, this is not a promising investment. Jan-Peter Kleinhans argues that the money should rather be used to expand European chip design capacities. 
"Source: the internet?" – testing digital news and information literacy in Germany (Study, German with English summary): How news literate is Germany on the internet? Anna-Katharina Meßmer, Alexander Sängerlaub and Leonie Schulz have tested over 4,000 respondents and, for the first time, collected data that captures the digital news literacy skills of an entire population. The results show that respondents scored mediocre to poorly in almost all areas of this test and often lacked specific knowledge and skills, such as distinguishing between different forms of communication, i.e., between advertising, information, disinformation, and opinion. The study is accompanied by a freely accessible self-test: der-newstest.de (only available in German).
Who watches the watchmen? In cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, we have developed a new online tool which features and discusses good practices in intelligence oversight and bulk surveillance. This tool intends to make intelligence oversight more accessible and transparent. Users can search the compendium for entries from specific countries. In addition, the website also includes an interactive element. Interested users can submit their practical examples via the "Suggest Good Practice"-Button and share knowledge about intelligence oversight with the community.


Technological memories

In 1971, British cyberneticist Stafford Beer developed "Project Cybersyn" for Chilean President Salvador Allende. The aim of Cybersyn was to control the entire economy of the socialist state: with the help of 400 teleprinters distributed to the country's factories, seven people were to make forecasts and adjustments in the central, futuristically designed control centre in Santiago. The project was confidential and never fully completed. It was nicknamed the "socialist internet" because the teleprinters were used to identify resources and alternative routes during a road blockade in 1972, ensuring food supplies to the capital. With the fall of the Allende government, the Cybersyn project also came to an end in 1973. Found by Johanna Famulok


Johanna Famulok

Beisheim Center
Berliner Freiheit 2
D-10785 Berlin

T. +49(0)30 81 45 03 78 87
F. +49(0)30 81 45 03 78 97