READ MORE: International Coalition Launches Declaration for the Future of the Internet (Tech Policy Press)
We’re at a turning point in our approach to technology and its relationship to democracies.
A group has joined forces to enshrine an “affirmative vision” that they hope will safeguard the future of the internet.
“It’s no secret that the internet and its future has become a key part of the battle for democratic principles and democratic principles,” said US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at a virtual roundtable hosted at the White House last week.
The document covers issues such as the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the promotion of a “global” internet, accessibility, trust in the digital ecosystem, and the benefits of multi-stakeholder governance.
It reads, “Partners in this Declaration intend to work toward an environment that reinforces our democratic systems and promotes active participation of every citizen in democratic processes, secures and protects individuals’ privacy, maintains secure and reliable connectivity, resists efforts to splinter the global Internet, and promotes a free and competitive global economy.”
In its 2021 Freedom on the Net report, Freedom House, a nonprofit organization founded in 1941 to advance democracy and human rights, noted that in its survey of 70 countries — representing 88% of the global population — most measures are moving in the wrong direction. Global internet freedom has been on the decline every year for the last decade.
“We cannot be naive about the promise and the dream of an open internet,” said Marietje Shaake, a former Dutch Member of Parliament and now the international policy director at Stanford University Cyber Policy Center.
She pointed to the ways in which technology now serves as a vector for war, geopolitical competition, manipulation and other actions that undermine the democratic principles outlined in the declaration.
There’s no more striking example than in Russia where the state controls media — and minds — with propaganda.
“We can see how Russian propaganda is transforming people into zombies that are ready to kill , ready to rape children and ready to destroy whole cities,” said Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, at the White House meeting. “But the Western world uses tech for good. Photos from satellites have proved a real genocide happened in Bucha. You help us to share this truth, and truth is the only efficient weapon against Russia. That gives me a new sense and understanding of the importance of free and true information.”
With regulations limiting the power of the internet’s publishers like Google and Meta going being passed into law on both sides of the pond, the era of “light touch” regulation may be over — but the fight for free speech may only have begun.