Digital Rule of Law Conference 2038. In 2038, China organized a major cyber conference with Europe and the US on the establishment of a global digital rule of law. The digitization of society had completely got out of hand and the disruptions in almost every area were so great that there was hardly any normal rule of law in many countries. Cyber attacks by states on other states, massive cybercrime and misinformation in many areas had completely disrupted many societies.
US and China acknowledge the problems. For a long time, the US and China in particular had taken the position that every state had to stand up for all these digital problems. They cherished their own national security concepts and did not really want to solve the problems for other countries. But they too were repeatedly victims of attacks from outside, civilians and companies started to complain more and more and the general awareness grew that things couldn’t go on like this.
Need one global legal order. China, the US and Europe were called upon to help reach global agreements. This cyber conference was to be the starting point to achieve a global digital rule of law, with laws, rules and enforcement that should become the same for all countries, citizens and businesses. It was in fact the recognition that the digital society, the hyperconnected world, had become one coherent whole. Mutual dependencies between countries and companies had become so great that at last the insight had broken that national laws, regulations and enforcement were no longer possible to take over the situation. So that meant giving up an important part of national sovereignty.
Cyber crime got completely out of hand. Could it go as outlined here? Will it get out of hand with the digital environment in the coming years? Cybercrime now amounts to approximately € 1,200 billion a year and the number of cyber attacks is increasing explosively. After all, the chance of being caught is low, the costs are low, and the returns can be enormous compared to classic crime.
Citizens and companies are victims. How big will cybercrime be in ten or twenty years’ time? And will it continue to hack organizations with impunity for extortion or theft of data files? Should states be able to continue preparing cyber attacks on other states with impunity, including by placing cyber bombs in vulnerable systems? Or by hacking and manipulating data files from other countries, or spreading disinformation, deepfakes? Or with mass checks, by governments and private companies, of citizens by means of facial recognition?
Bits and bytes do not stop at the border. The digital society is overrunning the classical society. On the one hand, this offers unprecedented prospects for innovation, efficiency improvement and quality improvement. On the other hand, unfortunately, there are also unprecedented opportunities for criminals and malicious authorities. At the moment, malicious people in the cyber world are not getting in the way. The digital world is too new, too different, too little tangible for classically trained politicians and policymakers. Where it is clear that a normal state of law belongs to normal society – with laws, regulations and enforcement – it should also become clear that a digital society needs a digital legal order. But one that has a worldwide effect, because bits and bytes do not stop at physical limits. And it makes no sense to make different laws for global digital providers, for Tesla and other products of the digital society in 180 countries everywhere. However, we do not see any notion at political level that there is a problem or urgency, that there is a risk of things getting out of hand in this area.
Head in the sand. Companies do not report cyber attacks to the government, partly out of shame, partly because the government cannot do anything about it and does not have a good enforcement system to act. Where is the digital police that you can call in for a cyber burglary, for example? That is how everyone puts their heads in the sand. So it could just be 2038 if, after a great deal of misery for countries, citizens and companies, the widespread realization becomes clear that a digital global society must also have a global legal order with enforcement. It is a pity that we did not start this in 2017, when the problems were more or less clear …