Regulators are also very wary of impeding innovation and competitiveness. Where is the balance between business freedom and excessive regulation?
To avoid excessive regulation, the onus is on companies to demonstrate that it is not necessary. For example, at IBM we are setting out our vision for a new partnership between technology, public policy and society. This is particularly timely as the European Union, under new leadership, will move to the next phase of the Digital Single Market.
We believe that for the DSM to be successful globally, it must focus on a digital future that is responsible, open and inclusive. This cannot be achieved only through regulation, but through companies themselves committed to changing their mindset, and focusing on actions that build trust.
That’s not to say that regulation doesn’t play a part. There are areas where precision regulation is warranted. Platforms that tolerate the dissemination of illegal content should not be shielded from liability. People also need to know who is behind the political messaging they see in their feeds.
By using a regulatory scalpel, not a sledgehammer, governments and regulators can focus on real problems where there is harmful behavior, while avoiding collateral damage.
Some in the sector say they don’t need to change their business model or their lobbying tactics and cite healthy user figures and financials. How should technology companies be engaging with regulators?
First, regulators want companies to walk the talk on good behavior. Moving from theory and promises to tangible actions. I’ve referred to IBM’s principles for trust and transparency, but we have also launched a service that brings greater transparency to AI decision-making—for the first time businesses will be able to “live” monitor AI for bias. We have also published “Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence,” a guide for designers and developers to help them embed ethics in their work.
Secondly, companies can work with policymakers to develop alternatives to regulation. IBM and other companies worked with the European Commission for four years to develop the Cloud Code of Conduct. Companies that sign up to the independently governed code are committing to a gold standard of data handling in the cloud. We are also a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group that developed recently published guidelines on AI ethics. Investing in being part of the solution pays off.
Thirdly, technology companies should accept that recurring bad behavior needs targeted regulation to root it out.
And finally, like-minded companies should also come together to engage with regulators. For example, IBM is a founder member of the Charter of Trust, a global cross-industry initiative centered around 10 cybersecurity principles designed to strengthen trust in the security of the digital economy. We are engaging with policymakers in Europe, US and Asia to help make high standards of security the norm across all sectors.