While echoing rules like the famed Digital Services Act, a legislative proposal by the European Commission to modernise the e-Commerce Directive regarding illegal content, transparent advertising, and disinformation, the United States, all European Union member states, and 32 non-EU countries have in a new alignment announced a “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” that prioritizes an “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure” internet, while highlighting goals like affordability, net neutrality, and removing illegal content without curtailing free expression.
With its 61 signatories, the three-page declaration will offer a broad vision of the internet as a well as a mix of all specific issues for the synergized countries.
“We are united by a 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 “access to the open internet is limited by some authoritarian governments and online platforms and digital tools are increasingly used to repress freedom of expression and deny other human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The declaration which highlighted the decentralization and global interconnectivity of the internet averred that countries should “refrain from undermining the technical infrastructure essential to the general availability and integrity of the internet.” This implies the spurning of the “splinternet,” a characterization of the Internet as splintering and dividing due to various factors, such as technology, commerce, politics, nationalism, religion, and divergent national interests, and which was fragmented by countries that shut down online access. The declaration will be a counterpoint to the visions of anti-western countries like Russia and China who are famed for restricting access to foreign sites and apps, while also contradicting Ukrainian requests to cut Russia off from global domain services.
The privacy and safety discussion in the declaration document is indicative of similar moves the European Union has in recent years taken, and this included the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Digital Services Act (DSA), that seeks to compel web services providers to yank off illegal content and prevent harm to users. It also vilifies the use of “algorithmic tools or techniques” for surveillance and oppression, and this included social credit scorecards.
Though the declaration fell short of discussing laws that inhibit private internet services providers from blocking access to contents on the internet deemed lawful, signatories to the document agreed to uphold the principles of net neutrality and “refrain from blocking or degrading access to lawful content, services, and applications on the internet.”