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Digital Policy Salon: An International Tax for the Digital Age

Digital Policy Salon
Digital Policy Salon: An International Tax for the Digital Age
By ICTC-CTIC • Issue #52 • View online
Welcome to the 52nd issue of the Digital Policy Salon briefing.
This issue covers several landmark international agreements: one to develop fairer taxes for multi-national companies in the digital age, and others to develop cross-continental partnerships that will guide the future of artificial intelligence (AI). This topic is also a priority for Canada, and ICTC’s featured research this week is a new paper on a domestic AI industrialization strategy.
In our perspective piece this week, one of our senior analysts breaks down four options for content moderation, including how different countries and companies have approached this controversial topic. On a similar vein, “what we’re reading” examines the planned rebrand of a major social media company.
Finally, we have several upcoming special events: a seminar on smart, connected, and remote health and what it means for Canadians, and a smart cities workshop for the Waterloo region. We look forward to seeing you there!
- Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)

Policy Updates 🇨🇦
Parliament of Canada to resume November 22nd, Cabinet to be sworn in October 26th
The Prime Minister’s Office announced on Friday that the federal Cabinet ministers will be sworn in on October 26th and that Parliament will reconvene on November 22nd. The announcement contended that the federal Cabinet will remain gender neutral and identified some of the government’s key priorities: the COVID-19 response, affordable home ownership and childcare, climate change action, and reconciliation.
At OECD, 136 countries agree to international tax solution, Canada delays Digital Services Tax
Following years of international negotiations, 136 countries representing more than 90% of global GDP have agreed on an international tax solution “for the digital age.” The global economy has seen a marked decoupling between where firms are located and where they generate profit, reducing the efficacy of the international tax regime. The agreement responds to this issue with plans to:
  • Establish a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15% for high earning companies; and
  • “Re-allocate some taxing rights over MNEs from their home countries to the markets where they have business activities and earn profits.”
These measures will ensure that firms pay a fair share of tax wherever they operate and generate profits, while reallocating more than US $125 billion of profit to market jurisdictions each year. The Government of Canada has since announced that it will delay the introduction of Canada’s Digital Services Tax until January 1st, 2024. Further, the DST will only be implemented if the international treaty implementing the OECD tax solution has not come into force.
AI ethics front and centre in global tech policy
China’s Ministry of Science and Technology published China’s first set of AI ethics guidelines late last month. The guidelines place human autonomy at the centre of AI, indicating that humans should have the rights to be informed about AI services, consent to or deny AI services, and withdraw consent at any time. The ministry also identifies six fundamental ethical norms that should be integrated into AI services across their lifecycle: this includes enhancing the well-being of humankind, promoting fairness and justice, and improving ethical literacy. The guidelines closely align with China’s Personal Information Protection Law, which was passed in August and will come into effect on November 1st.
Also last month, the newly formed US-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) held its inaugural meeting. Following the meeting, the TTC acknowledged that AI technologies can threaten the US and EU’s shared values and fundamental freedoms if they are not developed and deployed responsibly or are misused. The TTC then affirmed the willingness of the US and EU to develop and implement systems that are trustworthy and respect universal human rights and shared democratic values.
Computer scientists team up with artists, musicians to bring lost works to life
In two recent projects, computer scientists worked with artists and musicians to bring to life lost works by Beethoven and Picasso. On October 10th, with the help of AI, Beethoven’s unfished 10th symphony was premiered in Germany by the Beethoven Orchestra. A day earlier, on October 9th, art-tech company Oxia Palus published a lost Picasso work: the company used spectroscopic imaging, AI, and 3D printing to unearth the lost work, which had been painted over by Picasso in 1903 to make “The Blind Man’s Meal.” 
Our Perspective
Four Approaches to Content Moderation and their Risks and Benefits
Special Events
Promoting Smart Health and Wellbeing in Canada
Waterloo Smart Cities Community Event
2022 Digital Future Summit
Are You Prepared for Tomorrow’s Dynamic Digital Economy?
What We're Reading
What is the metaverse? A look at the focus of Facebook’s reported planned rebrand
Research Visualized
Source: Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index
Source: Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index
The chart above depicts hashrate – or how fast Bitcoin is being mined – among the world’s biggest Bitcoin-mining countries. There’s a clear story here, and it’s found in the sudden disappearance of yellow in the chart above – a recent sharp decline in China’s hashrate, alongside hashrate growth in other countries. The Chinese government made crypto-currency transactions illegal last month, and efforts to limit Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency have seemingly led to increases in bitcoin mining in Canada (and elsewhere). Given the significant environmental impact of crypto-currency mining, inexpensive renewable energy can be a big draw for such mining companies. Some suggest that Canada’s (and especially Quebec’s) low electricity prices make it a sought-after location for data storage, processing, and computing. 
Check out the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index for an interactive version of the chart above, and for more Bitcoin-mining data visualizations.
Our Research
Maximizing Strengths and Spearheading Opportunity
Twitter Highlights
ICTC-CTIC
We are participating in CCSBE’s 2021 Virtual Conference from October 20 – 22! Tune in for ICTC’s engaging presentations at 1 p.m. & 2 p.m. today, and other informative sessions here: https://t.co/clN4o5r7FL #CCSBE2021 https://t.co/Txv33yyP96
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