Juristische Fakultät

Blockchain and the Decentralization of Information

On Monday, November 29th 2021, the fourth symposium of Tübingen’s “AI MEETS LAW” platform took place. The subject matter was Blockchain and the Decentralization of Information. The panel expounded on how blockchain impacts on competition and what this can mean for the design of the appropriate regulatory scheme. The symposium attracted a large international audience from the academia, but also from private practice and the industry.

The event started with a brief welcome and introduction by Stefan Thomas, co-head of the AI MEETS LAW PLATFORM. Stefan homed in on the subject of the symposium. Blockchain technology challenges both established data monopolies and the traditional regulatory approach towards big data. In what way will blockchain impact on competition on digital markets, how will digital platforms react, and how can the law ensure effective competition, fairness and data protection under new premises of decentralized information?

The first speaker was Kristof Meding, postdoc in machine learning in the labs of Felix Wichmann (University of Tübingen) and Bernhard Schölkopf (Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems). He provided essential information on the technological foundations of blockchain, of its real-world applications, and a brief glimpse into the developmental future.

Subsequently, Michèle Finck spoke about decentralized Data Governance and EU Data Law. Michèle is a Professor of Law and AI at the University of Tübingen Law Faculty, an Affiliated Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition and the Centre for Blockchain Technologies at University College London. Her intervention dealt with the tensions between data protection law and blockchains. Also, she elaborated on the potential impact of the EU’s new legislative package on data for blockchains

The final speaker was Thibault Schrepel, Associate Professor of Law at VU Amsterdam University, and a Faculty Affiliate at Stanford University CodeX Center, where he founded the “Computational Antitrust” project that brings together a large number of experts and stakeholders. Thibault has worked extensively at the intersection of antitrust law and blockchain technology. How does blockchain compete with big tech? In what way does blockchain impact on the competition parameters that shape the traditional understanding of antitrust? In what way can big tech use its market power to hamper blockchain emergence? How can the design and enforcement of the regulatory framework accelerate or slow down blockchain competition? These were the main issues raised by Thibault in his speech.

The subsequent debate with the international audience homed in on the various topics. It became clear that blockchain technology has the potential to change the competitive landscape, to transform markets, and to readjust the allocation of market power. Legislation and law enforcement must pay heed to the specific functionality of blockchain technology. Most importantly, it became clear that blockchain entails a great potential for innovation and efficiency, and that lawmaking and law enforcement should be careful not to stifle this potential.

The AI MEETS LAW platform was established in 2020 at the Law Faculty in Tübingen. It is an informal discussion group on the Intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Law. You can learn more about it here: https://uni-tuebingen.de/en/167985.