EU chief calls on US to help rein in social media giants

Brussels - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on the US to help rein in the power of social media companies, creating a global rule book "based on our values."

The power of the internet

"The business model of online platforms has an impact not only on free and fair competition, but also on our democracies, our security and on the quality of our information," said von der Leyen during the online World Economic Forum (WEF).

Internet companies must take responsibility for how they spread, promote and remove content, she said, using her WEF address to appeal to Washington.

For example, Twitter's decision to shut down former US president Donald Trump's account during the storming of the US Capitol should not have been decided by company rules alone, she stressed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also referred to the power of internet giants and social media platforms, saying that she hopes to work with the administration of US President Joe Biden "on the minimum taxation of digital companies."

"I hope that we will be better able to anchor the central role of competition law globally in order to prevent the emergence of monopolies," Merkel said in her speech at the WEF.

"Because we have such [monopolistic] tendencies, of course, and we have to talk about them internationally, otherwise everyone will deal with such monopoly structures alone, in an inadequate manner," she said.

Technology can be a double-edged sword

French President Emmanuel Macron pointed out that new technologies like artificial intelligence and future ones like quantum computing hold the promise of finding solutions to climate change and pandemics much faster.

By using powerful computers that operate under the laws of quantum physics, "problems that would take weeks to solve will be solved in one day," Macron said.

However, the French leader predicted that social networks, the digitalization of the economy and these new technologies could also create further inequality and political problems.

"These will accelerate our problems from a social and democratic point of view," Macron said, pointing to recent developments in the polarized political landscape of the United States.

Some 2,000 political and business leaders are taking part in the event to debate the challenges of the year ahead.

It is being held online because of the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of the usual gathering at the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.