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The Anatomy of Technology Regulation

With the United States, the European Union, and China each adopting its own characteristic approach to technology regulation, it is tempting to conclude that ideology is driving them. But anyone hoping to divine where tech policies are heading will need to focus on more granular and mundane factors at the national level.

PHOENIX – The 2020s will undoubtedly be characterized by new technology regulation. But while today’s technologies are global, the rules governing their development and use are not.

The resulting policy fragmentation is often attributed to differing values and political ideologies within key jurisdictions: the United States, the European Union, and China. In this narrative, the US prefers digital laissez-faire; Europe opts for digital big-state socialism; and China pursues a politically motivated strategy of restricting some technologies and scaling up others to maintain social control.

But while there is evidence to support this narrative, such broad characterizations fail to explain the stark regulatory differences between countries that fall into the same ideological category. For example, consider Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, and the United Kingdom. These Anglophone liberal democracies with colonial histories have strong ties and belong to a longstanding security and intelligence-sharing pact (The Five Eyes). But each has a unique approach to technology policy.