Internet Governance Forum – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic
Paris, 12 November 2018
Thank you, Secretary General, dear António, both for your speech, your welcome here today, but also your speech yesterday at the Paris Peace Forum, where you spoke about these same issues,
Thank you, UNESCO Director-General,
Thank you to the President of Liberia, dear George Weah, for being here today,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe that this is the first time that I have stood before you in an official capacity as President of the French Republic, and I am honoured to speak today within a United Nations forum and at the same time in the heart of Paris. I would first like to say how pleased I am to stand before you today at UNESCO, a unique instrument in our multilateral cooperation to protect cultural heritage as well as the global body for education and science, an international platform for the promotion of multilingualism, as you mentioned, but also a showcase for innovations and digital knowledge.
In our day and age, we need UNESCO in its role as the conscience of the United Nations, as a wise man once said, and I believe that we need UNESCO to convince even more countries to join or remain part of this initiative. This, in my view, is essential. All the more reason, then, to be pleased to be among you today. UNESCO’s vocation has been proved today by hosting this event and this Internet Governance Forum.
Thirty years. Only 30 years have passed since the birth of the World Wide Web, and only 50 years since the first message was exchanged between two computers which paved the way for the premise of the Internet. Today, in 2018, half of humanity uses it. But we are also living through an incredible acceleration of movement which I spoke about earlier with some of you. The last few years have seen an absolutely incredible acceleration in the speed we move about.
We often compare the dawn of the Internet with the invention of the printing press midway through the 15th century. It is true that these pioneers of that age, and you, the pioneers of this age, have enabled an incredible spread of knowledge to many more people. But the change brought about by the Internet is both faster and more widespread. As was mentioned earlier, the last two years have seen the creation of 80% of all the data ever created since the beginning of humanity. We are talking about a change in scale, in all areas. For several decades now, this change has also transformed the way in which people get their information, exchange ideas and create. It has profoundly changed the way in which we produce, consume, work and govern.
The Internet has made life more intense by giving the impression that every human being could live a thousand lives at once. It is therefore more than a technological change, it is a cultural, social, philosophical revolution which has weaved its way into every layer of human activity. And this revolution is still ongoing. Every day, the list of changes gets longer. With artificial intelligence that you have spoken about, the Internet of Things and many other changes which have set the stage for huge progress in health, security, culture and education. What we have been witnessing for several years is the emergence of a profoundly new constellation with incredible opportunities, an acceleration of humanity’s progress and the new challenges it brings with it, and consequences for our daily lives as well as defending our common space.
I therefore think it is important as we open this 13th Internet Governance Forum, which follows in the same vein as the Paris Peace Forum and the GovTech Summit, to recognize how much of a key moment, a turning point this is. In the name of France and in the presence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, I would like to say that the community that you are forming, which enables the Internet to work, is extremely important at this time, for all the reasons that I have spoken about and I will develop further.
Today, the Paris Digital Week – to use the proper French name we decided on – is being held. This week has also seen the Paris Peace Forum, the GovTech summit and the Internet Governance Forum, as well as a meeting of over 80 heads of state and government and some 100 delegations for the centenary of the Armistice. This just goes to show how these issues are linked together and to what extent we must reflect and take action together.
I would first like to say that I believe that the Internet we take for granted is under threat.
Firstly, as some say, Internet works, and that’s the thing. Despite the cyber attacks which regularly hit the headlines, we all trust our day-to-day digital tools almost blindly. And for the youngest generations, the Internet is completely taken for granted. They almost forget that there was a time when this invention did not exist. And many of you work on a daily basis on making usage of the Internet or expanding its use everywhere and around the world. Our businesses and administrations are also almost capable of forgetting that this network of networks that we all rely on can sometimes be threatened. I would like to start my analysis and my speech with this: the Internet, that everyone here in this room takes for granted, is profoundly threatened.
Firstly, its structure itself is under threat. If cyberspace was simply a single place of conflict, it would stop being a coherent whole and would be shattered down national or continental lines. This is a risk which could loom large if we do not manage to establish the right types of regulation, the right types of collective space. Because the weaknesses and cracks in the system are currently only paved over by the considerable resources provided by states, by cyber defence strategies to protect from both state-orchestrated and criminal cyber attacks. But a time will come, if we do not ensure the stability, trust and security of this system, where it will break apart, and behaviour – not necessarily non-cooperative behaviour – but the security of our spaces will be brought into question today and will fracture something which initially came from a private and civil society initiative. The implications of this initiative for how our public services work are so great that if we cannot ensure its security it will fragment.
As we mentioned earlier: the nature of the cyber attacks that we are currently experiencing means that we can upset the running of strategic security services, our citizens’ healthcare and nearly all the hospitals of the countries represented here today. If we cannot be 100% confident in our system at any moment the system will fragment and recreate safe spaces in which we can guarantee these services.
Secondly, the Internet is threatened by its content and the services is provides. The list of Internet pathologies is getting longer every day. It is the earth in which the seeds of democratic springs, climate protests, drives for women’s rights, germinated. It also provides the same fertile ground for the development of criminal organizations and terrorist propaganda. And today, we need to be clear about this, we talk more about the threats posed by the Internet and the incredible democratic revolutions that it has helped to drive. Ten years ago, extraordinary democratic revolutions took place and the Internet was the hyperspace of Tahir Square and many other places which were focal points for the drive for global freedom. Today, when I look at our democracies, the Internet is much better used by those on the extremes. It is used more for hate speech or dissemination of terrorist content than by many others. This is the reality and we must face up to it. And today, we can see a gap... Our own weaknesses are used much better by authoritarian regimes who exploit these opportunities to penetrate our democracies, try to weaken them while they close off those same opportunities at home. It is a reality. It is a reality which also forces us to categorize what is said on the Internet and to be lucid. Proactive, but lucid. We cannot simply say: we are the defenders of absolute freedom everywhere, because the content is necessarily good and the services recognized by all. That is no longer true.
Our governments, our populations will not tolerate much longer the torrents of hate coming over the Internet from authors protected by anonymity which is now proving problematic. At the end of 2018, we stand at a crossroads. Not only is the Internet under threat, but the Internet itself is starting to be described by some as a threat, especially in democratic societies. We must be aware of a possible coagulation between the discourse of authoritarian regimes, who have always seen the Internet, in essence, as a threat, because it was a way of opening civil society, and the democratic antibodies which are appearing because this space is not correctly regulated.
This defiance has also grown due to all these transitions. And as you so perfectly mentioned, Secretary-General, they have rocked our societies. In reflecting on the Internet, we should therefore also reflect on the opportunities that it offers, new employment opportunities, possibilities for inclusion, where defiance is driven by exclusion from accessing the Internet, be it regarding knowledge, networks or those that remain on the sidelines of this progress.
Lastly, the very ideals and values of the Internet are threatened. It is threatened by the temptation – which comes when the principle of neutrality of the Internet is brought into question – to introduce bias into which users can access content. It is threatened by giant platforms which risk no longer being simple gateways but gatekeepers, controlling members’ personal data or content for their own profit. At the base of it all, I believe we face two symmetrical risks:
The idea that the concept of Internet neutrality is the end of thought. As I said earlier, Internet neutrality is an extremely important concept and you have helped to maintain it with the idea that certain players cannot control its access and with it, certain key elements for the survival and deployment of the network. But neutrality does not mean universalism. I would like to make that distinction and this is something that we should reflect on together. We, as states and governments, have gradually created, over the last century, principles which are maintained and protected by the United Nations: the idea of saying that we have values, that these values are in a hierarchy, but that above all there are universal values to which others are held. Neutrality does not ensure this. And it would be false to say so, because Internet neutrality also enables actors which do not share any of our initial values to spread.
And, on the other hand, the symmetrical risk is that we can close access to the Internet in the name of protecting certain values – which would help to protect neutrality.
And so we need to build this new space – a free, open and safe Internet – which I believe in profoundly, enabling the access of all but also enabling us to ensure our values and our ideals are respected there. And I believe one of the mistakes we are currently making would be, in the name of neutrality, to give way to a certain lack of differentiation between content. In the name of neutrality, we would give up on the universalism of the values that we have upheld since the outset and that form the foundation of these spaces. And I believe that this is a conceptual line that we have so far not apprehended in our collective reflection, meaning that in the name of freedom we have allowed so many enemies of freedom to advance in the open. We have allowed them to enter all our systems, giving the impression they had the same rights as the others just as they trampled over what brought us together and what allowed Internet to develop.
In my view, all that leads to growing responsibility of platforms and regulation of the Internet. I am speaking here before you precisely, ladies and gentlemen, because of all these threats of today. Because I very deeply believe the situation is urgent. It is urgent that we, many players in the functioning of the Internet, take control of these subjects and shoulder our responsibilities in this respect. And it is with this in mind that I proposed that your annual session should be entitled “Internet of Trust”, with our shared goal of firmly consolidating trust in the Internet: trust in the protection of privacy, trust in the legality and quality of content, and trust in the network itself.
As you know, France and Europe have, for several years, been proposing greater regulation of activities on the Internet. As I use the verb “regulate”, I already hear some disapproving murmurs. But the healthy mistrust of businesses and civil societies as regards governments should not be a barrier to pursuing a common interest. Firstly, I would like to say that this mistrust is in a way unfair. Not all governments are equal: there are democratic governments and undemocratic governments; some governments are driven by liberal democracy, while there are also illiberal democracies; and lastly, there are non-democracies. In relations with governments, we cannot accept a certain lack of differentiation.
Lastly, for the reasons I just mentioned, I deeply believe regulation is needed. That is the condition for the success of a free, open and safe Internet – the vision of its founding fathers. And France is the first state to sign up to the “Contract for the Web” initiated by Tim Berners-Lee, to save this original vision. It is also the condition for democratically elected governments respecting the rule of law to protect their people. As I often say, if we do not regulate Internet, there is the risk that the foundations of democracy will be shaken; if we do not regulate their relationships with data and the rights of our citizens over their own data – access to it and sharing of it – then what is the meaning of democratically elected governments? But who better than these governments can set the law? That means that implicitly, we accept that players, on the basis of economic dominance, or that a system that has never been discussed in practical terms, would be more legitimate than a government with regard to its own citizens – perhaps only its own citizens – to say what the proper relationship with these data is! That means that the notion of responsibility with regard to citizens is to an extent worn away.
That is also why I believe we need to move away from the false possibilities we are currently offered, whereby only two models would exist: that, on the one hand, of complete self-management, without governance, and that of a compartmented Internet, entirely monitored by strong and authoritarian states. To be very politically incorrect, we are seeing two types of Internet emerge: as I said earlier, there is a Californian form of Internet, and a Chinese Internet. The first is the dominant possibility, that of an Internet driven by strong, dominant, global private players, that have been impressive stakeholders in this development, that have great qualities and with which we work, but which at the end of the day are not democratically elected. Personally, I don’t want to hand over all my decisions to them, and that is not my contract with France’s citizens. That is the self-management model, but it doesn’t really have any governance and it is not democratic. On the other side, there is a system where governments have a strong role, but this is the Chinese-style Internet: an Internet where the government drives innovations and control, where the major players in artificial intelligence are held by the government and there is much ... – I have great respect for this model, great respect. We do a lot with China, but we do not have the same democratic preferences, we do not have the same cultural references on all subjects, we do not have the same relationship with individual freedoms – that is a reality. And so in that Internet, the state has found its place, but it is hegemonic.
We therefore need, through regulation, to build this new path where governments, along with Internet players, civil societies and all actors are able to regulate properly.
And you have an objective interest in taking hold of the subject rapidly, because there will inevitably be greater regulation in future, and you will be the first to pay the price if rules are poorly designed. My constant desire is precisely to build this cooperative regulation together, as we did in May this year in Paris through our “Tech for Good” initiative. What we need to do is learn to regulate together, on the basis that all Internet players, including civil societies, private actors, NGOs, intellectuals, journalists and governments, are co-guarantors or this common interest that should drive us precisely to work in cooperation. And it is no coincidence that the notion of “commons” has seen such success in the digital era.
The Internet, the depth of data and knowledge hosted by it, and the essential services it gives access to, are collective treasures that we need to manage together in order precisely to pass them on to future generations. And so it is here that we need to invent a new multilateralism both suited to the reality of cyber space and effective.
That is why I am here today to propose a new collegial method. The Internet Governance Forum has now been around for 12 years, and the quality of the discussions here is renowned everywhere. But this Forum now needs to produce more than just debate and reflection. It needs to reform, to become a body producing tangible proposals. I will strongly support all initiatives in this direction. That is why France, with the assistance of the host country that preceded it – Switzerland – and ahead of the Forum that will meet in Berlin in 2019, would precisely like to promote this movement of reform.
Starting this year and in the spirit of the approach tried in Geneva last year, we will gather the main conclusions of the discussions. But it will then be up to you, afterwards, to define the terms of production and recommendations for public policies – which is what the mandate of the Forum has invited you to do since its creation in 2005. I am also very in favour – this is a suggestion – of the Internet Governance Forum now being directly attached to the United Nations Secretary-General and for it to have its own Secretariat. Dear António Guterres, I will leave these various points to you, but I know how committed you are to the issue.
I propose moreover that we begin asking ourselves immediately what a common road map could look like. I will be attentive to your recommendations and this could provide direction for your work over the next two days. Several subjects are absolute priorities for France in this respect, and an unprecedented reflection is under way, led by the Minister of State for the Digital Sector. I would like to detail a few of them.
Firstly, the protection of citizens, with two major focuses: data protection and the regulation of content.
In Europe, we have already begun working hand in hand, Commissioner: the crucial subject of data protection, with the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is the best demonstration that, far from restricting innovation, regulation builds the user trust that businesses need so much. And this regulation came at a moment when, across the oceans, other scandals were emerging, demonstrating the sensitivity and the importance of this issue of access to data.
In that respect, this regulation is on the way to becoming a global standard, but work is not finished in this area, even in Europe, and we need to go further. I have in mind, for example, the idea of establishing a common European framework for class actions as regards violations of personal data rights, enabling all European users to obtain compensation in accordance with a harmonized framework.
I also have in mind the need to develop new solutions to make data portability more than just an idea or theoretical right: a genuine practical possibility. You, businesses, NGOs and passionate coders are the ones who will produce these solutions.
These international standards are those that you will have to propose in the future in this Forum, particularly as regards regulation of illegal or undesirable content, which is the next frontier.
This is of course a complex issue, in which two major aspects need to be distinguished. The first is the fight against objectively and seriously illegal content, such as terrorist content and child pornography, for which ambitious obligations of results must be established. The second concerns content of which the illegal nature is subject to interpretation, which often varies from country to country, such as hate speech, libel and harassment, for which the instruments and decision-making processes cannot be the same. Firstly because artificial intelligence, while now capable of recognizing a terrorist video or child pornography, is not yet clever enough to identify irony and parody or, conversely, to recognize an abject subtext to carefully worded speech. Secondly, because these fine distinctions will often reach a public authority or a judge, unless the major platforms are left the responsibility to decide themselves the doctrine to apply to identify hate speech and what is free expression. And if civil society is to play a role of vigilance, to act as a whistle-blower and a check on the actions of governments and businesses, this is where it can take action.
However, we have already made major progress and we need to continue.
Major progress has been made in the field of seriously illegal content, particularly in the fight against terrorism. Last year, France and its European partners launched direct discussions with Internet operators at the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. We did this at the September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Major investment efforts, which I welcome, have been made to develop automatic detection and improve content moderation. However, this voluntary approach has obvious limits. Progress is patchy, and has the effect of redirecting users to less equipped platforms. I think we are ready to pass legislation on this issue. As far as Europe is concerned, Commissioner, plans are afoot for a clear framework applicable to all businesses. In September, the Commission presented a draft European regulation, which I fully support. I hope it will be adopted quickly, before the European elections. But it is up to you to encourage and propose clear rules for the rest of the world. The anonymity offered by the Internet should continue to encourage freedom of expression in areas where voices may be stifled, but it must not enable criminals or terrorists to avoid prosecution. We therefore need to find effective legal cooperation methods to lift anonymity and find electronic evidence where this exists. In particular, Europe and the United States need to work towards a legal cooperation agreement, as permitted by the Cloud Act. This agreement should uphold the respective rights of American and European citizens concerning their data.
The illegal nature of some content is still open to interpretation. In this field also we need to urgently develop effective tools, especially in the field of hate content. This need is all the more pressing given the abject remarks made on social networks before and during recent events in the United States. The designers of the Internet, who always supported openness, sharing and fraternity, never wanted this. For me, this also extends to cyberbullying, especially of young people. As I have said, regulations in this field cannot be the same as for terrorism. As far as terrorism is concerned, we are passing legislation at the European level. I would like us to develop real international legislation and cooperation instruments, and enhance our efforts.
Concerning hate speech and cyberbullying, we need to do much more in terms of cooperation between states and with the private sector. But harm has already been done, particularly to our young people. Cyberbullying is a reality and causing a growing number of suicides.
In this field, Europe needs to modify its legal framework by moving away from the binary system of web publishers and web hosts. The biggest platforms, which organize and analyse content for advertising purposes, should not escape all liability. As I have said, when hate content is published, I want these platforms to be liable. They should meet enhanced obligations – if necessary, through the implementation of the intermediary status of “content accelerator”. But when this content is racist or anti-Semitic, we need to be able to attribute liability and pass laws.
Once again, the national and European regulations we are committed to developing in 2019 must be jointly drafted if they are to be fair and effective. This is why France and Facebook are launching an unprecedented field experiment during the first half of 2019. Very soon, Facebook will welcome a group of French regulators who will work with the platform’s experts to jointly develop specific and concrete proposals to fight offensive and hate content. This is a world first which, in my opinion, reflects the cooperation method I spoke of earlier.
I am delighted at this innovative experiment, which will encourage reflection on the best ways of ensuring that major platforms implement demanding and high-quality moderation systems for the content they host. This is the method I would like us to spread. It may only be a test, but in my eyes it is also an important first step.
Lastly, in democracies, the protection of citizens depends on access to high-quality information. Internet is a powerful tool for accessing knowledge. However, paradoxically, it has also become the best way of spreading misinformation and rumours. The risk is that technological development will make it impossible to detect fake images or doctored videos in the future. I have been shown new tools that use artificial intelligence to produce completely fake speeches or evidence of an announcement. Therefore, we need trustworthy third parties, we need to work together on what constitutes proof or the truth on the Internet and we need to support democratic and trustworthy third parties, particularly journalists.
We are at the point where, if we wish to restore confidence, we must make much more radical decisions than we did in the past. The NGO Reporters Without Borders has developed an “International Declaration on Information and Democracy”, which was produced by experts from around 20 countries and sets out principles to create a public space that supports democracy and human rights, given the threats we currently face. This initiative was presented yesterday at the Paris Peace Forum with the support of several heads of state and government. I support it fully and I think it is essential. France has begun implementing measures to fight fake news, particularly during electoral campaigns. I ask you all to do your part by taking concrete steps towards supporting these initiatives.
Again, we must fight the right battles. Those who do not fight for the integrity of democratic electoral campaigns help authoritarian regimes. They also help those seeking to weaken these campaigns by casting doubt on their sincerity and fairness. Those who do not fight to ensure that information and journalists are given special status and respect a code of ethics that is not defined by governments are making a serious error. They are mistakenly falling into a kind of contemporary relativism which could be considered a fad if it were not the Trojan horse being used today by all those who wish to destroy democracy. Not all information is of the same value. Information can be true or false. All comments are valid, provided they are based on correct information. This is the very principle of democracy.
Yesterday, to support your initiative, Christopher Deloire, I quoted Hannah Arendt, who said exactly the same thing against totalitarianism. A new kind of contemporary totalitarianism is taking shape, inspired by religious obscurantism and new forms of hard-line nationalism. These are based on our own weaknesses, transmission channels and relativism – the fact that somewhere we are giving up the fight to defend the universal nature of our values and the fight to defend truth.
On this subject, we must be uncompromising. For this reason, I invite you, as members of a community that is extremely committed to freedom of expression on the Internet, to get involved in this project, and jointly establish the boundaries of the right to high-quality information and trustworthy third parties in this field.
The second priority we need to focus on is confidence, stability and security in cyberspace.
This is the best way of avoiding the fragmentation I mentioned above. Cyberspace has become a place of conflict because malicious stakeholders, from both the public and private sectors, are racing each other to exploit vulnerabilities in digital products and services. Our response should not be limited to defence, but also incorporate law and cooperation. We need to work together to strengthen the laws governing relationships between state- and non-state players in cyberspace.
This is why France supports the “The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace”, which was issued during the Paris Peace Forum and the Internet Governance Forum. This text is the first declaration to call on states, international organizations, NGOs, businesses, local authorities and local actors to work together to uphold international law in cyberspace, protect rights online, fight against destabilizing activities and ensure the security of digital products. Today, more than 370 states, civil society organizations and businesses have joined this call. No doubt more will follow in the days to come. It reiterates the principles established over almost a decade of work by multilateral and multi-stakeholder forums on this issue. I am convinced that most of you will subscribe to it. I encourage you to adhere to and share it.
But the real challenge will be implementing it. In agreement with the Secretary-General, I suggest that we entrust the Internet Governance Forum with monitoring the text’s evolution, recording those who support it and identifying the cooperation initiatives and measures necessary to reach its goals. The time to implement this initiative is now. This is an essential combat.
The third priority for the future of the Internet is preserving the Web’s potential in terms of creativity, invention and economic development.
I am saying this here because I think it is a central element of the DNA of both the Internet and UNESCO. The Internet’s DNA, which makes it unique, is its ability to give talented people, regardless of their resources, a language in which to express themselves and a universal audience. This is also its transformative power. And, as I am reiterating here today at UNESCO, this is why the issue is taking on a unique slant. We must act in digital space to preserve cultural diversity.
We are currently adopting an essential European directive to ensure that the value of cultural goods is shared fairly. And again, this is a combat that France will wage in all forums and one that is vital. And again, because it is a form of transformation, if you will, of collective ideology, for years, when we have assisted and loved the Internet, we have loved openness. I myself continue to love it and to defend it. But in loving openness, we have in a way advocated the end of differentiation, we said to ourselves that the main combat was to be open and content no longer mattered. And the combat we are waging in today’s Europe, we must not lose. The combat for a single digital market obviously involves eliminating borders between the 28 countries that are currently member states, which may number 27 in the future. But it is more than that. It also means ensuring that we have common regulations to allow for creation, content and recognition of copyright in this area. And the situation is the same at international level.
I am aware that many of you have fought against copyright or recognizing the fact that it could have a value that was recognized. But if we are currently not fighting for this, we recognize the fact that there is but one copyright, of those who disseminate, who are not the authors, who are the disseminators. Today we need to look at this realm together. The distribution of the creation of value is being arbitrated between those who create and those who disseminate. This is a fact. When it comes to digital services, benefits in the value chain should continue to be distributed between big structures and start-ups, between companies and self-employed people, between hosts and content producers. But if we do not fight for those creating the content, we do not recognize the differences between them and will never be able to protect cultural diversity properly.
And therefore I hope that in the Internet realm, we recognize that what a journalist does has value and therefore a price. We must also recognize that what someone in a country in the world creates, if it is disseminated and loved, should not simply generate income for those who disseminate it, but also for those who created it, if not they will be unable to create other things. This is a basic rule but today we are not protecting it properly. And I would like to stress the fact that fighting for authors, fighting for copyright is not a thing of the past and no, it does not go against the Internet. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It even generates the possibility of having new people, new talents, men and women who will not give in to hegemony which is also emerging on the Internet – in the same way that at any given time anywhere in the world a form of hegemony can take root. This is what will make it possible to maintain, preserve and ensure the very dissemination of this creativity over time.
That is why I put forward the idea of creating an agency to monitor platforms at European level and of establishing genuine platform-to-business regulation in addition to competition law that should be preserved and that should figure more prominently in digital technology regulation. However, competition law itself also needs to evolve in order to take better consideration of the specificities of this new economy. Again, we will put forward additional ideas on this theme with a view to revitalizing European institutions.
Fighting for this cultural diversity and the potential of Internet creation also involves fighting for education. That is a combat that concerns everyone and is perhaps the most important of all. Fighting to teach children to learn, first of all, to have the basic education they need to protect themselves from certain things, but also to be knowledgeable about the digital age. Fighting to have access to code. Then fighting so that everyone is educated and has access to the new ways of using the Internet. The combat for education, the investment of governments, international organizations and all the state and non-state actors is vital to inclusion, confidence-building and development. This is the only way it will be possible to create these Internet shining lights we aspire to be and to prevent the Internet from falling into a modern-day obscurantism and from being disrupted due to its own fears.
Conserving the Internet’s capacity to innovate also requires developing a balanced approach to the issue of taxation so that newcomers are not penalized with respect to those who are already present, so that insiders do not close the doors to outsiders. And it is also a combat that France is waging at European level but must also be waged internationally. Today taxation in the digital realm is not fair taxation. Today, all the work that has been done, especially at the OECD, to ensure fairer taxation so that our peoples are not the sole tax payers, if you will, and that the middle classes of all peoples thereby established are not the only ones participating in the efforts, should also be done in the digital realm. If not the major digital players will gradually be accepted less. Also new players will be unable to emerge as they pay all the taxes in their countries but will still be subject to unfair competition of the major players which are able to play the situation to their advantage and pay hardly anything.
That is why we are continuing our efforts at European level to develop a digital tax and why I would like us to step up our work within the OECD regarding this issue. Also, we need to have collective imagination not only to enable fair taxation in our societies, but also to prevent the effects of domination and hegemony of certain players which garner all the advantages and are currently not fairly taxed and to foster the very DNA of the Internet, the perpetual innovation and therefore the emergence of new players. And fair competition law and fair taxation is what is needed to make this happen.
Lastly, to achieve this we should continue to invest and cooperate when it comes to artificial intelligence. We are investing at national level and we plan to scale up investment at the level of France and Germany and Europe. Investment is what will enable creation but also coherent work to make greater strides in this realm. France will do its share. During the G7 Presidency in 2019, regarding artificial intelligence, building on the work conducted in recent months with our Canadian partners and the commitment that I made with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I will spearhead the project to create an equivalent of the renowned IPCC for artificial intelligence. But having said that, I would like to share with you an aim that we should have with regard to artificial intelligence.
We need to invest more in Europe; we are only investing 10% of total investment in artificial intelligence worldwide. This is absurd, so it is up to both governments and companies to act, and we are going to continue to make efforts at the level of France and Germany and of Europe. We should also have this strong initiative at international level and finish what we began with Canada and other partners in terms of creating this “IPCC”.
I believe this “IPCC” should have a large scope. It should naturally work with civil society, top scientists, all the innovators here today. It should count on the full support of the OECD to better monitor this work, particularly when it comes to innovation. It should count on the full support of UNESCO regarding ethical questions, especially because I believe that there can be no artificial intelligence and no genuine “artificial intelligence IPCC” if reflection with an ethical dimension is not conducted.
And therefore this structure that we need to come up with has to enable us to reflect on the ethical, technical and scientific dimensions of this revolution that goes beyond states alone with the full support of international organizations such as the OECD and UNESCO.
Under France’s G7 Presidency, I will therefore invite prominent artificial intelligence specialists to meet at the end of the first half of 2019 to establish the basis for this scientific network. Again, these debates will result in solutions and we will be able to take stock of all this in a year at the Paris Peace Forum 2019 and the International Governance Forum in Berlin in 2019.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, Kofi Annan, one of the predecessors of António Guterres, whose recent death we mourn, made this visionary remark some years ago: “In managing, promoting and protecting [the Internet’s] presence in our lives, we need to be no less creative than those who invented it.”
This is my wish for us today. We need creativity in the technological field, but we also need it in the fields of ethics, diplomacy, politics and society. It is not by chance that we are meeting today in Paris on 12 November, one day after the centenary of the 1918 Armistice. In 1918, the Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference, which lasted several years. The unprecedented work completed at this conference by our predecessors resulted in real innovations. They innovated because new forms of international cooperation between states were needed; because they had just discovered that the First World War was the consequence of nations failing to cooperate. The League of Nations was founded, but fell as a result of economic and moral crises and the fracturing of the world. However, it did pave the way for the United Nations.
Given the context I have described, we need to invent – innovate – new forms of multilateral cooperation that involve not only states, but also all of the stakeholders you represent. This is what I want for us; this is what I want us to work towards. These issues are a huge responsibility for the Internet community, for you and for us. For this reason, I do not doubt that we will be able to follow in the footsteps of our founding fathers and rise to the challenge.