As part of the Telekom "AI Action Day", Deutsche Telekom Board Member Claudia Nemat had a digital exchange with Ferdinand von Schirach. The author vehemently opposes the "Wild West" in the digital world and calls for new fundamental European rights.
„Everyone has the right to digital self-determination. Excessive profiling or the manipulation of people is forbidden,” says Ferdinand von Schirach. “Everyone has the right to know that any algorithms imposed on them are transparent, verifiable and fair.“ With these proposals, the internationally successful German author and lawyer von Schirach gave a central impulse at the AI Action Day. On the occasion of the event on artificial intelligence, he spoke with Claudia Nemat about his latest work: "Everyone" (2021). It combines six new fundamental rights that von Schirach demands for Europe (see below). It is about environment, digital self-determination, artificial intelligence (AI), truth, globalization and fundamental rights lawsuits. In line with AI Action Day, von Schirach and Nemat focused the articles on digital self-determination and artificial intelligence.
Talk about manipulation, for example by Facebook/Meta and some other tech giants: Von Schirach cites the example of the 2021 United States Capitol attack and is convinced that this can be attributed to social media helping to create it. "A terrible business model," he says, and, "insanely dangerous." What is desirable, he says, is a social network with transparency requirements. With principles such as those applying to Gaja X, the European cloud for full data sovereignty.
Deutsche Telekom’s Guidelines for Articial Intelligence: “Correct, but …“
"This area of the digital, or just take the Internet, is the Wild West and needs to be dominated by law," von Schirach says. The goal, according to him, is "that we have the same rights and the same obligations in our digital lives as we have in our analog lives." Full agreement from Claudia Nemat: "If algorithms are defined to push hate and disinformation, because unfortunately this produces more engagement in people's brains, that's toxic." The question is, says von Schirach, how to create alternative logics that actually empower people to decide transparently with whom, for what purposes, and for how long they share data, and how to then deal with it transparently.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, von Schirach welcomes the ethical guidelines that Telekom has set for itself. However, "I would like it not to be a company's decision to do this responsibly, but a legal, mandatory requirement." After all, he said, it's also about decisions made by AI on life, on freedom, or on social issues, for example. "Is an algorithm allowed to decide on curative treatment, on very expensive curative treatment for a child? No, the final decision must be made by a human being." Fundamental rights are needed that everyone can sue for.
Do laws prevent innovation?
Claudia Nemat echoed a question a business leader once posed to her: "In Europe, you always try to regulate all innovation in laws. Europe is far behind in digital. And you are throwing away your future readiness." For von Schirach, to a large extent that's not true - again, looking at the 2021 United States Capitol attack. Or to Elon Musk, who is in the process of taking over Twitter: "He's taking the company off the stock market, and there's no longer any legal regulation of who can speak on Twitter and who can't. Now let's imagine if Trump was still on Twitter under Elon Musk and had won the election. What would have happened?" Claudia Nemat and von Schirach share another experience: many governments and people around the world value laws and regulations "made in Europe" as model initiatives that influence our future for the better. Von Schirach: "I can also very well imagine that innovations arise precisely from the fact that people say, we have now thought about these ethical issues for so long, (...) we can offer the world something that works according to ethical principles. That was often enough the case in Europe. Take vaccines, for example, a typical European invention."
Last but not least, the lawyer and author gave his backing to the "human-centered technology" movement at Deutsche Telekom. In other words, for telecommunications technology that benefits people today, but also future generations, and should by no means produce harm as an undesirable side effect: "Having an institution such as a giant company like Deutsche Telekom that you can turn to on these kinds of issues will help a lot of people. No question about it. I think that's really good."
See the whole conversation here on our AI action page welove.ai
Ferdinand von Schirach has an impressive range of topics and publications. His works include "Das Verbrechen“ („Crime“), "Die Schuld" („Guilt“), "Der Fall Collini" („The Colline Case“), "Die Würde ist antastbar" („Dignity is violable”), "Strafe" (“Punishment”), "Trotzdem" (“Despite”) and, since 2021, "Jeder Mensch" (“Everyone”). In this book, he argues for expanding the Charter of Fundamental European Rights. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the foundation of the same name, which works to enforce the articles:
Article 1 - Environment
Everyone has the right to live in an environment that is healthy and protected.
Article 2 - Digital self-determination
Everyone has the right to digital self-determination. Excessive profiling or the manipulation of people is frbidden.
Article 3 - Artiﬁcial intelligence
Everyone has the right to know that any algorithms imposed on them are transparent, verifiable and fair. Major decisions must be taken by a human being.
Article 4 - Truth
Everyone has the right to trust that statements made by the holders of public ofﬁce are true.
Article 5 - Globalization
Everyone has the right to be offered only those goods and services that are produced and provided in accordance with universal human rights.
Article 6 - Fundamental rights lawsuits
Everyone has the right to bring a lawsuit before the European Courts when the Charter’s fundamental rights are systematically violated.