World leaders from more than 60 countries, including the United States and the UK, have come together to sign a new agreement to protect the future of the Internet. The so-called Declaration for the Future of the Internet (PDF) will help strengthen democracy on the Internet, as countries that have agreed to it have promised not to undermine elections by conducting online disinformation campaigns or illegally spying on people.
At the same time, the declaration commits itself to promote the security and fair use of the Internet, while the countries involved agree to refrain from forced disconnection at the initiative of the government, providing both affordable and reliable Internet services.
Although the Declaration for the Future of the Internet is not legally binding, the principles set out in it will serve as a guide for statesmen, businesses, citizens and civil society organizations. In a White House newsletter, the Biden administration provided additional information on how the United States and other partners will work together to protect the future of the Internet, saying: “In signing this Declaration, the United States and partners will work together to promote this vision and its principles globally, while respecting each other’s regulatory autonomy within our own jurisdictions and in accordance with our respective domestic laws and international legal obligations.”
To date, 60 countries have pledged to adopt the declaration, although the European Commission has said it expects other countries to join in the coming weeks. Not surprisingly, Russia, China and India are not involved in the effort, although a senior Biden administration official said in a background press conference that “there is still hope that the time for India’s accession is not over.”
US technology giants support the declaration: Google said in its blog that the private sector should also play an important role in promoting Internet standards, while Microsoft President Brad Smith explained in a separate blog that governments can not independently cope with the global challenges that Internet possesses. Most likely, we will hear more when countries start implementing the declaration, and other countries that are late for the party will be forced to abide by it.