The United States, all member states of the European Union, and 32 non-EU countries have announced a “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” that sets priorities for an “open, free, global, interoperable, trustworthy, and secure” Internet. . It highlights goals such as affordability, net neutrality, and the removal of illegal content without restricting freedom of expression, though it offers few details for achieving them.
The three page statementalso summarized by the White House Y The European Commission, offers a broad overview of the network as well as a mix of more specific topics for its 61 signatories. “We are united by the belief in the potential of digital technologies to promote connectivity, democracy, peace, the rule of law, sustainable development and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the document begins. But “some authoritarian governments limit access to the open internet, and online platforms and digital tools are increasingly being used to suppress freedom of expression and deny other human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The statement emphasizes that the internet must be decentralized and globally interconnected, saying that countries must “refrain from undermining the technical infrastructure essential to the overall availability and integrity of the internet.” That’s an implicit repudiation of the “splinternet”, an internet that is fragmented by countries that ban services and shut down online access. It’s a counterpoint to the views of countries like Russia and China (neither of which are signatories) that have highly restricted access to foreign sites and apps. It also contradicts Ukraine’s failed requests to isolate Russia from global domain services.
The document’s discussion of privacy and security reflects steps the EU has taken particularly in recent years, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will impose greater obligations for web services to remove illegal content and prevent harm to users. It denounces the use of “algorithmic tools or techniques” for surveillance and oppression, including social credit score cards, a concept the EU has embraced. weighed legislate against after it became ubiquitous in China.
The signatories also agree to uphold the principles of net neutrality and “refrain from blocking or degrading access to lawful content, services, and applications on the Internet,” though it does not discuss laws that might prevent private Internet service providers from doing so. . It is not clear how this language would fit in with the rules of the signatories. such as the UK Online Safety Billthat forces companies to reduce the visibility of “legal but harmful” content online.
Most of the principles cover well-trodden ground, but some details are less linked to contemporary regulatory debates. The signatories agree to cooperate to “reduce as much as possible the environmental footprint of the Internet and digital technologies,” for example. That compromise could come into play as nations explore the regulation and adoption of cryptocurrencies, which are often power-hungry. Despite its name, however, the statement is broad enough not to tell us much about how countries will shape the future of the Internet, at least no more than its regulation already has.