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    So this article is a bit long, but the tl;dr behind the motivation for the “European firewall” is that we’re going to rely on tech much more in the future, and relying on US or Chinese tech is probably not a good idea. Some choice quotes from various parts of the document (in order, but the last one is probably the most relevant):

    A European firewall/cloud/ internet would foster a digital ecosystem in Europe based on data and innovation. It would drive competition and set standards, similar to what has happened in China in the past 20 years. The foundations of such a European cloud are democratic values, transparency, competition and data protection.


    All in all, we predict a world that is partly digitised in all areas of life. Gaps in between services will close, creating a seamless digital world with many tasks being taken over by digital solutions, robots and the like.


    That being said, considerations about regulating these digital services, while not inhibiting innovation and standing in the way of progress, is the most important task. If this fails, Europe will soon be taken over by companies from the US or China.


    The EU should include an action plan for a digital cloud – a European Internet – in the DSA. This European Cloud would foster a European digital ecosystem based on data and innovation. It would drive competition and set standards. Foreign web services could become part of such a digital ecosystem but must adhere to the rules and standards of the EU – such as democratic values, data protection, data accessibility, transparency and user friendliness.Technologically, it would require a top-level infrastructure, high-speed 5G or a 6G data network and a firewall. Setting up such a network would promote many European companies and therefo re boost business and drive innovation.Like the Chinese firewall, this European internet would block off services that condone or support unlawful conduct from third party countries.

    Note: this is not intended as either an endorsement or rebuttal, just informational.

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      I really dislike that part: “Like the Chinese firewall, this European internet would block off services that condone or support unlawful conduct from third party countries.”

      When you’re writing something and it starts with “Like what they do in China”, you can be sure that it will empede individual liberties and promote censorship…

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        I think they are pointing at that it’s technically possible to firewall a large region. I would guess that this is driven by various recent developments:

        1. The success of US and Chinese internet companies compared to EU counterparts.
        2. The introduction of the GDPR, which will get more teeth if the EU could actually threaten to block sites that do not comply.
        3. The rise of Uber & AirBnB. In some EU countries these companies are operating against EU law. To which their reaction is basically shrug, we’ll just compensate drivers/property owners that get a fine.
        4. The rise of Alibaba, which sells products to EU customers without proper safety certification.

        Normally, I would be strongly against any kind of internet blockade. But with the disgraceful violations of privacy and pervasive tracking, we (as the EU) should at least consider explore different possibilities to force companies to ‘comply or shutdown’ if they want to do business in the EU but do not want to abide by our privacy laws.

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          I don’t think they’re arguing for a literal “Chinese firewall” in the EU, but are rather observing that one effect of their firewall is that China has developed its own internal tech, which seems to be working quite well for them. This seems like a valid observation to me, and I think you can separate that effect from others such as the censorship.

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            Like the Chinese firewall, this European internet would block off services that condone or support unlawful conduct from third party countries.

            That sounds like they’d like to block e.g. services in the US that don’t respect privacy enough.

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              I think you can separate that effect from others such as the censorship.

              I don’t think that this sort of thing would end up in censorship territory (though the EU has certain… interesting opinions on copyright that wouldn’t be great to export), but I think it’s hard to underestimate all the collateral damage this would cause.

              Imagine you’re travelling to Europe from abroad. Will you even be able to access stuff from your home country? It might get completely isolated because the EU strategy might end up being “Register your presence with us if you want routing here”.

              It just feels like the sort of thing that would bring the net back many steps in terms of an amazing communication tool.

              I agree on the EU’s reasonable interest in stopping Uber/AirBnB/Alibaba types. But we already have ways of dealing with this kind of stuff.

              Examples:

              • customs can just stop accepting stuff shipped from these kinds of services
              • EU can pressure payments processors to stop allowing payments to these kinds of services
              • Airbnb in particular, you could just look at all the listings and bulk fine everyone.
              • Just DNS filter?

              “Let’s build out our own infra” (which isn’t really all of the nuance of the PDF) just feels like a solution that’s come up by people wanting to sell a bunch of infra to the EU.

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                Yeah, that’s reasonable. I’m not so sure what to think about any of this, I never really considered this idea before and don’t feel like I’ve thought about it enough and heard enough opinions about it to really form a good coherent opinion on it.

                But “it will lead to Chinese censorship” doesn’t strike me as a very good argument.

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              Lots of praise for WeChat on page 17:

              WeChat lets users pay for their shopping at vending machines, public transport and the ever-p r esent street vendors. Payment is made easy by using systems such as QR codes or mini-pr o gr a mmes (see Figure 7). Doctor’s appointments can be made through WeChat just as well as job applications. Wh at’s more, WeChat’s operator Tencent Holdings Ltd. has no plans to stop just yet. According to a 2018 press release, WeChat plans to be part of the user’s daily life – from morning to night – with no gaps in between (Sapra, 2019). And they are on the right track to getting there with WeChat events starting to include a virtual ID in their app, used for social security by the Chinese government. In a nutshell, life in China is basically impossible without using WeChat (Sapra, 2019).

              At attempt at a joke: One wonders if WeChat server locations are listed as a target option in the surely super secret New SIOP.

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              Soon, every TCP packet will need a visa to move between continents. The eTSA will harass packets from journalists. /s

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                I don’t know what to think about this.

                I understand where this study is coming from and why this is a possible solution:

                On the one hand, the EU has drafted excellent laws to try and safeguard internet privacy. On the other hand, they don’t have any easy way to enforce those rules, and this firewall would help with that.

                But what happens when the EU democratic systems falls under the control of extremist governaments? Once the infrastructure is in place, it’s a very small step to close down comunications and limit information and freedom of expression.

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                  But what happens when the EU democratic systems falls under the control of extremist governaments? Once the infrastructure is in place, it’s a very small step to close down comunications and limit information and freedom of expression.

                  I don’t find this a valid argument. In such situation, if this infrastructure would not exists, it could be built anyway.

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                    If it has to be built, that allows more time for opposition. So I don’t find “it could be built” a valid argument.

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                      Looking at an autocratic regime like Hungary where there is no opposition, the “it could be built” argument does have merit.

                      You vastly overestimate the fairness in the EU.

                      The opposition argument works only as long as the political system is not gerrymandered past a certain point. After that, it’s significantly more likely “it can be built” as who can stop them?

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                        Hungary is far from autocracy. There is opposition, only of very low quality, with messages not resonating with the voters, or even if some do, the complete package offered is still not a good deal for most voters. There is free press. Most outlets are pro-government, but largest outlets by volume are opposition, with (current) opposition’s media having greater volume overall ever since the fall of communism. Unaligned outlets have negligible share, but the media is by its nature always a politically aligned entity). There is no censorship in action. (Only against hatespeach, but there are even stricter laws in that regard in Germany for example) The government instead funds its media outlets at loss, but voices are not silenced.

                        In Hungary ISPs have the infrastructure to take down any page if ordered so by a court order, since like mid 2000s (government was the current opposition in that age), for example for piracy, hate crimes, etc. It is used very sparingly. The same goes for many western European countries. The bricks of the “great european firewall” are all ready. Only central coordination is needed actually.

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                  wondering what’s more disappointing here 1. the quality of discourse in that study 2. the way the EU allocates money on “innovation studies” or 3. their actual recommendations…

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                    The arguments in that study all seem to be based on a superficial understanding of press releases. What is “DNA based customization”? What makes “6G” internet so meaningfully different from 5G that it warrants its own era? What applications do we have for the (hypothetical) bandwidth increases it enables?

                    I think most MEPs have a greater understanding of technology than the “research bureau” (called “Future Candy”) tasked with preparing this document.

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                    Well that’s a fascinating development. Thanks for sharing.

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                      I can see this leading to digital tariffs, like its physical counterpart for goods crossing borders. The EU could impose a tariff/surcharge for traffic going to or from the US or China and thus favour and/or protect EU-based technology companies.

                      Like in the physical world, one must have an enforcement if some traffic isn’t lawful: in this case a firewall.

                      The reason I speculate about this scenario is that an outright block might seem too authoritarian, but a tariff would maybe been seen as protecting local workers, which might be a more favourable public image.

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                        Let me point you toward Benjamin Bratton’s “The Stack”, seems relevant: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/stack

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                          Also of note:

                          The basis of our arguments is rooted in a new approach of the European Commission manifested in the ambitious agenda that the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen put out in mid-February 2020. The general idea in our action plan is that Europe should play a leadership role in all digital developments.

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                            For overall leadership in digital developments probably at least a second-to-leader semiconductor industry would be needed. Currently the EU is a giant on clay legs, as most CPU vendors are USA based, and China (plus Taiwan,and Korea) developing at a rapid pace. Without significant (and competitive) CPU, RAM, SSD manufacturing capabilities the EU can only dream about imposing meaningful tariffs/blockades.

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                              There is GlobalFoundries Fab1 in Dresden…

                              But no real capacity for non-CPU/RAM ICs for things like power supplies. And all IoT components are manufactured and even assembled in China.