Speech by President von der Leyen at the Paris Peace Forum

(Source: European Commission)

Thank you very much,

M. le Président, cher Emmanuel,

Vice-President Harris,

Prime Minister Trudeau

President Karis,

Distinguished guests,

It has been three years, indeed, since the Forum launched the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. The Call’s ambition has always been to reclaim the internet as a force for good. And now, three years on, the Paris Call is more relevant than ever. Throughout the pandemic, indeed, the internet has been a lifeline for millions of companies, and the only connection to our loved ones for so many of us. Yet, cyberspace has also become a more dangerous place, with rising threats against our critical infrastructure, our democratic processes, and even our personal health and safety, including our children’s. It is very good to hear from you, Vice-President Harris, that the United States is supporting now the Paris Call. And today, I am happy to announce that the European Union is also joining the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, alongside our 27 Member States. Because our citizens must feel empowered, protected and respected, online just as they are offline.

Many of the European Commission’s initiatives already resonate with the spirit of the Paris Call. I would like to focus on three issues in particular. First, cyber resilience. Second, artificial intelligence. And third, platforms’ responsibility.

This year, cyberattacks have targeted crucial services and businesses across Europe, extending even to hospitals and the entire IT system, for example, of the Irish health service. Cybersecurity has a direct impact on the lives of all Europeans. That is why we proposed a revision of our European cybersecurity law. We want to step up cybersecurity requirements for essential sectors. And we want all Member States to level up, because our collective security depends on every single link in the chain. On top of this, I have announced a European Cyber Resilience Act, to set common security standards for connected devices sold in the European market. This is one of the ideas mentioned, for example, by the Paris Call. Our goal is to keep Trojan horses out of our Single Market, while contributing to higher cybersecurity standards throughout the world.

My second point is artificial intelligence. AI is, without any doubt, already changing our lives for the better. It can help, for example, detect a cyberattack or, like you said Vice-President Harris, it can support doctors in more precise cancer diagnoses. Yet, for people to trust AI, we must also manage the risks in sensitive sectors like, for example, healthcare, or law enforcement or, for example, employment. Thus, our Artificial Intelligence Act will focus on such high-risk fields and set standards for products on our market. In the same vein, I am very glad we are now working with the United States, in our Trade and Technology Council, to define shared principles for trustworthy AI. In my talks yesterday with President Biden at the White House, we were exploring this common work. And we all know that while authoritarian regimes are exploring the potential of AI to monitor dissent, Europe and the United States are joining forces to put AI at the service of people.

And my third point is on platforms’ responsibility. This is the core of our Digital Services Act. We hope that it can be passed under the French Presidency next year. If algorithms of large platforms spread hate speech, illegal content or disinformation, those algorithms must be changed. You know the reports that recent analysis shows that if teenagers, for example, type ‘diet’ on certain social media, the algorithm will soon target them with videos that actively promote eating disorders and anorexia. We cannot let this happen. It is our responsibility, as regulators, to prevent this. Our Digital Services Act will give us the tools to do so. And I thank President Macron for his call on standing up for children’s rights in the digital environment.

Joining the Paris Call is another step on a common path. It is a commitment to working with all of you to reclaim the internet as a force for good. It is a commitment to making the values we cherish offline also respected online.

Thank you very much for having me with you and I wish you a very interesting debate.

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