Anu Bradford is a professor at Columbia Law School and a leading authority on the European Union, digital economy, governance of artificial intelligence, and global economic regulation.
Bradford’s award-winning book “The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World,” was published in 2020. It was named one of the best books of 2020 by Foreign Affairs, with Andrew Moravcsik of Princeton University writing that The Brussels Effect “may well be the single most important book on Europe’s global influence to appear in a decade.” The book has shaped public discourse on the EU’s role in the world and garnered extensive media attention, with the Financial Times reviewing the book, Wall Street Journal publishing an essay based on the book, and the Economist dedicating its Charlemagne column for the book.
In addition to her work on the European Union, Anu Bradford is an expert on international trade, competition policy, and technology policy. She is a sought-after commentator on digital regulation, including the governance of artificial intelligence. Her newest book “Digital Empires: The Global Battle to Regulate Technology” was published in September 2023. The book shows how the global battle among three dominant digital powers—the United States, China, and Europe—is intensifying as they are racing to regulate tech companies, each advancing a competing vision for the digital economy while expanding its sphere of influence in the digital world. Digital Empires was named one of the best books of 2023 by Financial Times.
Bradford’s research and public commentary has been featured in the top international news outlets, including BBC World, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, CNBC, CNN Business, El Pais, Foreign Affairs, Le Monde, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The New York Times, Politico, Reuters, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
Anu Bradford holds the Henry L. Moses Professor of Law and International Organization chair at Columbia Law School. She is also a director for Columbia’s European Legal Studies Center and a Senior Scholar at Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business at Columbia Business School. Bradford earned her doctorate degree and LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School, and also holds a law degree from the University of Helsinki.
Anu Bradford grew up in Finland, and lives today in New York City with her husband and three children.
The global battle among the three dominant digital powers—the United States, China, and the European Union—is intensifying. All three regimes are racing to regulate tech companies, with each advancing a competing vision for the digital economy while attempting to expand its sphere of influence in the digital world. In her talk based on her award-winning book Digital Empires, Anu Bradford explores a rivalry that will shape the world in the decades to come.
Across the globe, people dependent on digital technologies have become increasingly alarmed that their rapid adoption and transformation have ushered in an exceedingly concentrated economy where a few powerful companies control vast economic wealth and political power, undermine data privacy, and widen the gap between economic winners and losers. In response, world leaders are variously embracing the idea of reining in the most dominant tech companies. Bradford examines three competing regulatory approaches—the American market-driven model, the Chinese state-driven model, and the European rights-driven regulatory model—and discusses how governments and tech companies navigate the inevitable conflicts that arise when these regulatory approaches collide in the international domain. Which digital empire will prevail in the contest for global influence remains an open question, yet their contrasting strategies are increasingly clear.
Digital societies are at an inflection point. In the midst of these unfolding regulatory battles, governments, tech companies, and digital citizens are making important choices that will shape the future ethos of the digital society. Digital Empires lays bare the choices we face as societies and individuals, explains the forces that shape those choices, and illuminates the immense stakes involved for everyone who uses digital technologies.
Artificial intelligence is taking the world by storm. Generative AI technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way we work and interact with information and each other. At best, they allow humans to reach new frontiers of knowledge and productivity, transforming labor markets, remaking economies, and leading to unprecedented levels of economic growth and societal progress.
At the same time, the pace of AI development is unsettling technologists, citizens, and regulators alike. Even the ardent techno-enthusiasts are now issuing dire warnings on how unregulated AI can lead to uncontrollable harms, posing severe threats to individuals and societies.
The excitement and concerns surrounding the adoption of AI technologies raise difficult questions about the best way to regulate those technologies. Already, three regulatory models are emerging, with the three leading digital powers—the United States, China, and the European Union—each pursuing a governance approach that reflects their distinct interests and values.
The coming years will reveal not just winners and losers in a race to develop AI technologies. What will also be revealed is winners and losers among competing regulatory approaches that govern those technologies. These approaches will varyingly empower tech companies, governments, or digital citizens. The choices are stark and involve trade-offs that are vital for individuals and societies. How governments go about those choices will determine whether the unfolding AI revolution will serve democracy and deliver unprecedented economy prosperity or lead to grave societal harms, or even unprecedented catastrophe.
For many observers, the European Union is mired in a deep crisis, battling sluggish economic growth, rising geopolitical insecurity, mounting costs associated with the war in Ukraine, the urgency to rebuild its energy infrastructure and internal challenges fueled by economic populism. The EU is also viewed as being at the mercy of the escalating trade and tech war between the leading technology powers, the US and China. As a result, the EU is seen as a declining power on the world stage.
In her talk based on her award-winning book The Brussels Effect, Anu Bradford challenges this narrative of the EU’s weakness. Instead, she shows how the EU remains an influential superpower that shapes the world in its image due to a phenomenon she calls the “Brussels Effect”. By promulgating regulations that shape the international business environment, elevating standards worldwide, and leading to a notable Europeanization of many important aspects of global commerce, the EU has managed to shape policy in areas such as data privacy, consumer health and safety, environmental protection, antitrust, and online hate speech. And in contrast to how superpowers wield their global influence, the Brussels Effect – a phrase first coined by Bradford in 2012- absolves the EU from playing a direct role in imposing standards, as market forces alone are often sufficient as multinational companies voluntarily extend the EU rule to govern their global operations.
The Brussels Effect shows how the EU has acquired such power, why multinational companies use EU standards as global standards, and why the EU’s role as the world’s regulator is likely to outlive its gradual economic decline, extending the EU’s influence long into the future.
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“Anu Bradford provides a holistic and balanced view of the three competing regulatory systems at the intersection of technology and society. Digital Empires is a must read for anyone seeking to understand what's at stake in developing a practical regulatory framework that serves the needs of people everywhere.”
Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President of Microsoft
“Anu Bradford's Digital Empires is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the regulatory choices confronting governments that seek to reign in big tech. The US, China and Europe have chosen different paths, and Bradford carefully breaks down the legal and political contexts of each. Bradford's voice is clear and reasonable and this book is a tour de force.”
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate 2001 in economics
“It is easy to forget that the future of the big tech is not just the question of what Europe, China or the U.S. will do, but how it all comes together. Anu Bradford offers the single best approach to understanding these interactions to make sense of an otherwise bewildering present and future.”
Tim Wu, Special Assistant to President Biden for Technology and Competition Policy, 2021-2023
“This is the definitive account of the fierce and hugely important fight within and among "digital empires" - the United States, China, and the European Union - over the shape of our digital lives. Among its important conclusions are that the European rights-driven regulatory model, rather than the American market-driven model, is best poised to unite the democratic west and challenge China's growing control in the digital realm.”
Jack Goldsmith, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
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