The United States, all European Union member states, and 32 non-EU countries have issued a Declaration for the Future of the Internet, which sets out the priorities for an “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure” Internet. The document highlights goals such as accessibility, net neutrality and the removal of illegal content, without restricting freedom of expression, although the declaration offers little specificity to achieve them.
“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 said. “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 stressed that the Internet should be decentralized and globally interconnected, and said that countries should “refrain from undermining the technical infrastructure essential for the general availability and integrity of the Internet.” This is an implicit rejection of splinternet, the Internet, which is fragmented by countries that ban certain services and block access to sites.
The document is the opposite of the views of countries such as Russia and China, which have severely restricted access to foreign sites and programs and, of course, have not signed the declaration. Unfortunately, the document also condemns Ukraine’s requests to disconnect Russia as an aggressor from global domain services.
The discussion of confidentiality and security in the document shows the steps the EU has taken in recent years, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Digital Services Act (DSA), which impose greater obligations on web services to remove illegal content and prevent harm to users. It condemns the use of “algorithmic tools or methods” for surveillance and repression, including social ratings, a concept against which the EU introduced legislation after it became widespread 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 programs on the Internet”, although the declaration does not discuss laws that may prevent private Internet service providers from doing so.