By: Doug Kelly
As Europe’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) takes effect this week, U.S. policymakers should watch closely.
At a time when techno-autocracies are fighting to take the lead in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and 5/6G, it is more important than ever that the United States and our allies maintain our technological edge.
But the DMA, along with anti-innovation policies being considered by Congress, risk leaving the world’s leading innovators decades behind, including in technologies that play a strategic role in both the national and economic security of the United States and that of our allies.
In the face of these rising threats, policymakers should find it highly concerning that the DMA only applies to a handful of U.S. tech companies, while notably overlooking Chinese and Russian competitors. Instead of unleashing companies who share our Western, democratic values, these policies open the door for foreign competitors to dominate, empowering adversaries that pose a risk to U.S. national security.
Our government leaders know that it is crucial for U.S. national and economic security that we offer the most capable and cutting-edge technologies. So rather than following Europe’s lead and pursuing legislation that reflects the DMA’s anti-innovation policy, Washington should closely examine the unintended consequences before undermining such a vital industry.
Prior to the DMA’s passage, American Edge Project national security advisor Fran Townsend issued a similar warning, writing in The Hill, “The European Union is barreling toward the final stages of enacting sweeping new rules in antitrust and speech that are gerrymandered to target only America’s most successful technology companies. But the painful reality is that by damaging America’s ability to innovate, these policies would be a self-inflicted wound that threatens the national security of the United States and its extensive network of European allies. Policymakers in the U.S. (and the United Kingdom) should treat the EU’s approach as a cautionary tale, not as a model to emulate.”
This same cautionary tale has been raised by national security leaders in the United States and Europe alike. Recently, the United Kingdom’s intelligence chief raised concerns about China’s growing technological advancements and leadership, saying that “how governments respond to China ‘will define our future’ and the scientific and technological community in democratic countries will need to rise to the challenge.”
And, earlier this year, a group of seven U.S. national security leaders stated, “There were also bipartisan congressional fears that the DMA would benefit ‘powerful state-owned and subsidized Chinese and Russian companies,’ which could have ‘negative impacts on internet users’ privacy, security, and free speech.’ Even in light of these security concerns, the EU’s refusal to undertake a national security assessment led to none of them being addressed. The U.S. government must not make this same mistake.”
The United States and our allies are facing stiff competition from China and Russia—and voters recognize it and are concerned. Recent polling shows that U.S. and EU voters agree that the growing technological influence of China and Russia is a threat to their country’s national security and economy. In response to this, an overwhelming majority of these voters said that the U.S. and EU should increase their cooperation to “defend our shared values;” if not, “the security and prosperity of Europe and the U.S. are in jeopardy.”
Right now, of the top 10 tech companies in the world, two are European and seven are American. However, that could easily shift if we continue to hamstring the world’s leading innovators, and it will undermine transatlantic tech cooperation at a time when we should be working together the most.
In the face of rising techno-autocracies, we should be fostering collaboration on technology across the Atlantic to build our economies, strengthen national security, and promote democratic values of a free and open internet. Failing to do so could undermine America’s national security, stifle domestic innovation, and leave us decades behind. We must avoid making the same mistake. It matters who leads the future.