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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Vice-President Andrus Ansip's speech at the Mobile World Congress

Barcelona, 26 February 2018

Ladies and gentlemen

The internet has been an open, fair and neutral platform from the start.

Its online freedom brings endless innovation and a dynamic digital economy.

But so much has changed in a relatively short time:

  • quality and speed of access.
  • platforms and website sophistication.
  • sharing files in the cloud.
  • an exponential growth in social media.
  • and of course, 24/7 online shopping.

 It was as long ago as 2000 that the EU's e-commerce Directive came into force.

This sets the basic legal environment for online services in the single market.

It sets liability limits for digital platforms.

It guarantees freedom of expression online.

Both are vital for an open internet.

Europe's rules on net neutrality are the other side of the same coin:

  • end-users gain the right to access and distribute the content, applications, services and information of their choice.
  • internet providers must treat all traffic equally. No blocking, throttling or discrimination.

For me, the idea that all legal internet traffic should be treated equally is the vehicle for innovation that sparked the digital economy in the first place.

It is vital for consumers, business customers and content providers.

Our liability regime and net neutrality rules are two principles that have guaranteed an open internet.

They work, and they should remain.

I think Europe and the United States can agree on the need to preserve the freedom of the internet economy. Where we may differ is how to do it.

I mentioned change. Today, platforms have more influence and market power than anyone could have imagined.

It is only natural that in this position they will need to become more transparent in their dealings.

Most of them are already.

The same goes for illegal material posted online that promotes terrorism, violent extremism, hate speech. Online platforms have taken measures to combat this.

In a couple of days, the Commission will issue a recommendation dealing with illegal content, in particular terrorism.

It will complement our earlier guidance on detection, take-down and stay-down. It will help platforms to act proactively, urgently and decisively.

If the internet is to remain open – and I believe that it should – then illegal content must be blocked at the source, not in the network. This is also more effective and proportionate.

This recommendation will be built on the e-commerce liability regime, which we will not change. Not today. Not tomorrow.

Why? Because I do not want Europe to become a 'big brother' society in online monitoring.

George Orwell aside, I believe everyone has the right to access an open internet, where all traffic should in principle be treated equally. EU law has protected these principles for almost two years.

Since our experiences are positive so far, I will continue to protect and defend net neutrality and an open internet in Europe.

These rules allow space for everybody, for innovation and experimentation. Space for specialised services that come with a certain quality, where necessary.

But this cannot be at the expense of other internet users. I do not want a digital motorway for the lucky few, while others use a digital dirt-track.

Access to the internet is a basic right. It has to stay open for everybody. No discrimination.

I know that you will all have views as well - and that some will be very different to mine. I look forward to the discussion.

SPEECH/18/1261

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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