The U.S. and 60 partner countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and members of the European Union (EU), have signed a sweeping “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” which commits to bolstering “resilience to disinformation and misinformation” and somehow upholding free speech rights while also censoring “harmful” content.
The White House framed the declaration as something that supports freedom and privacy by focusing on its commitments to protect human rights, the free flow of information, and privacy. The EU put out similar talking points and claimed that those who signed the declaration support a future internet that’s open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure.
However, the commitments in the declaration are vague and often conflicting. For example, the declaration makes multiple commitments to upholding freedom of expression yet also commits to bolstering “resilience to disinformation and misinformation.” It also contains the seemingly contradictory commitment of ensuring “the right to freedom of expression” is protected when governments and platforms censor content that they deem to be harmful.
Furthermore, many of the governments that signed this declaration are currently pushing sweeping online censorship laws or openly supporting online censorship.
While creeping Internet monitoring and regulation may seem like a new concept to the U.S., The same process has been advanced throughout Canada & The united kingdom. Canada’s Digital Charter was launched in 2019 and threatens platforms with “meaningful financial consequences” if they fail to fight online “hate” and “disinformation.” In May of 2021 The UK launched it’s first iteration of an “online safety bill”. In short The UK’s Online Safety Bill will give the government sweeping censorship powers, censor some “legal but harmful” content, and criminalize “harmful” and “false” communications.
While the current signatories of this declaration are governments, the White House plans to work with “the private sector, international organizations, the technical community, academia and civil society, and other relevant stakeholders worldwide to promote, foster, and achieve” the “shared vision” of this Declaration for the Future of the Internet.
The declaration isn’t legally binding but is intended to be used as a “reference for public policy makers, as well as citizens, businesses, and civil society organizations.” The signatories also intend to translate its principles into “concrete policies and actions; and, work together to promote this vision globally.”
Original Story: Reclaim the Net