Power structures in the digital space: consumers must be empowered

  • Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection and Bitkom host Safer Internet Day

Berlin, 14 February 2023 - Digitalisation has revolutionised consumers' opportunities for participation, but it has also created informational and economic power imbalances between economic actors and consumers. On the occasion of Safer Internet Day, today's joint conference of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection and Bitkom is dedicated to this problem and potential solutions on the topic: "Power Structures, Participation and Influence - How Can Consumers Be Strengthened in the Digital Space?"

Federal Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection Steffi Lemke: "We must shape digital spaces fairly. As Consumer Protection Minister, I am committed to shaping digital spaces in which, above all, justice, solidarity, participation and access become defining elements. This requires a fair and intelligent regulatory framework, effective law enforcement, the protection of vulnerable groups and the increased promotion of digital offerings that are oriented towards the common good."

Dr Bernhard Rohleder, CEO of Bitkom: "The internet gives consumers a wealth of opportunities to be more informed, more self-confident and stronger in their dealings with companies and also public authorities. It is important that all users are familiar with these possibilities and that they are enabled to move safely and confidently in the digital world and in social media. Here, companies also have a duty to provide knowledge and tools and to increase digital participation across the whole spectrum of society."

To empower internet users, the Ministry of Consumer Protection advocates for a fair regulatory framework and for products and services to be consistently user-friendly, privacy-friendly and secure-by-design from the outset. For example, at the European level, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection is advocating for consumer rights and the responsible use of AI, particularly with regard to artificial intelligence (AI) as a forward-looking technology in the AI Regulation. In addition, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety has made it its task to provide consumers with knowledge about artificial intelligence and to educate them. To this end, it supports the Centre for Trustworthy AI, which, as a neutral interface between science, civil society and politics, aims to provide information on consumer-relevant aspects, initiate public debates and develop instruments for the evaluation and certification of trustworthy AI. With the Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR) initiative, the Ministry of Consumer Protection is also working to make corporate digital responsibility a matter of course. The CDR Code offers corresponding orientation.

As a partner of the "Digital for All" initiative, the digital association Bitkom promotes the sovereignty of consumers in the digital world. On 16 June, the fourth nationwide Digitaltag (Digitisation Day) will take place, which was initiated by more than 25 leading associations from society, science and business. The day of action makes digitisation tangible with over 2,000 events and contributes to promoting digital participation. With its "Smart School" competition, Bitkom also awards digital pioneer schools that, in addition to good technical equipment, offer innovative pedagogical concepts and comprehensive teacher training and thus prepare their students for the digital world. Since 2016, the network has grown to over 100 locations in Germany.