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Marietje Schaake

Europe’s Tech Laws Should Be a Matter of Principle

A former member of the European Parliament has some advice for the new batch of MEPs on how to legislate for technological change.

Newbies face old challenges.

Newbies face old challenges.

Photographer: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

The stereotypical view that the European Union is far from the minds of most Europeans is challenged whenever a technology-related topic is on the agenda of the European Parliament. Over the 10 years that I served there, few battles for legislative outcomes were more fiercely contested.

But the attendant controversies often lead to protracted processes, ambiguous laws and ineffective regulation. Consider the lobbying war that broke out last year, when a new copyright law was set to push tech platforms to filter content posted by users. The platforms spent huge sums in an effort to convince lawmakers that the new rules would threaten the open internet. Across the trenches was the lobbying campaign by movie, music and publishing houses, complete with free concerts by famous artists and promises of saving journalism—and democracy.