– The challenge of lex Netflix and Booking: digital sovereignty
Jean Christophe Schwaab is in favor of the financing of Swiss audiovisual production by online distribution platforms, submitted to the vote on May 15.
Let’s be honest: regular Netflix user, I sometimes book my holidays on Booking.com. This does not prevent me from being resolutely in favor of the “Netflix(modification of the law on cinema) and the “lex Booking” (reinforcement of the law on unfair competition). Because these are measures that affirm and strengthen Switzerland’s digital sovereignty.
The rise of “GAFAM”, but also of other multinational technology companies such as Netflix and Booking.com, poses serious problems of sovereignty. Indeed, these big companies try to shape the law according to their good pleasure and in their only interest.
“To assert their sovereignty, states must dare to decide which rules apply in the digital world.”
One of their methods is to impose their rules outside of any democratic procedure, as Facebook does by deciding what content can be published, without regard to national legislation. Another method is to ignore the rules in force in the countries where they offer their services, hoping that their size will protect them from intervention by the authorities or that this will take place too late (once their ousted competitors). This is what Uber or Amazon, known for their contempt for tax, labor and social insurance law, do. It is time for public authorities to react. Alas, a good part of the political class is silent, including within the parties which claim to defend sovereignty.
To assert their sovereignty, States must dare to decide which rules apply in the digital world, just as they do on their territory, in the real world. They must, according to their own democratic processes and values, decide what the public interest is and how to defend it.
This is exactly what Switzerland is doing with the lex Netflix and Booking. The federal parliament has decided for one that streaming platforms must support national audiovisual production and for the other that hotels can remain in control of their prices. The lex Netflix also sets public interest rules for recommendation algorithms, instead of leaving the field open to arbitrary decisions driven by the private interests of a foreign multinational.
Whether we agree or not with these proposals, we must admit that these are sovereign decisions, which the companies concerned will have to apply if they wish to offer services in Switzerland, in the same way as a company active in the real world must comply with our law on our territory.
Our country is beginning to understand that it can and must set valid rules on the Internet and give itself the means to enforce them. But these first steps to strengthen our digital sovereignty are very timid compared to the strategy of the EU, which is resolved to impose strict rules on the technology giants, accompanied by dissuasive sanctions. Switzerland must not be left behind.
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