The United States, the European Union, the former member of the EU, the United Kingdom, and 32 other countries have committed to the Declaration for the future of the Internet [PDF]an agreement to strengthen online democracy by agreeing not to undermine elections by conducting online disinformation campaigns or illegally spying on people, the White House said Thursday.
The statement also pledges to promote safety, especially among young people and women, and fair use of the Internet. Additionally, the countries agreed to refrain from imposing government-led shutdowns and pledged to provide affordable and reliable internet services.
Although not legally binding, the statement states that the principles should be used “as a reference for public decision-makers, as well as for citizens, businesses and civil society organisations”.
In a statement, the White House said it would work with partner countries to promote the principles of the declaration, but that mutual respect should be upheld for each country’s regulatory autonomy.
So far, 60 countries have endorsed the declaration and, according to the European Commission, more are expected to join in the coming weeks.
Notable omissions include India, China and Russia. Their absence is hardly surprising given that Ukraine is a signatory and the statement calls on countries to refrain from using social scorecards, a transparent critique of China’s social credit score.
Meanwhile, a senior Biden administration official responded to India’s absence by saying “the hope remains that the time is not yet completely up for India’s membership.”
Google responded in favor of the statement, but said the private sector must also play an important role in promoting internet standards in the face of the global crisis.
“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our teams have been working around the clock to support Ukrainians through our products, defend against cybersecurity threats, and deliver high-quality, trusted information,” Google said. in a press release.
Microsoft President and Vice President Brad Smith echoed that sentiment, saying in a blog post that governments cannot handle the global challenges facing Internet management alone.
“We need new and innovative internet initiatives that bring governments together with NGOs, academic researchers, technology companies and many others from the business community,” Smith said.
Signatories beyond the US, UK and the 27 EU members include: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Cape Verde, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Palau, Peru, Senegal, Serbia, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine and Uruguay.