Canada, the U.S., and 59 other countries have signed a declaration vowing to work for an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet.
It isn’t clear if or how the Declaration on the Future of the Internet will be reflected in the current negotiations before the United Nations on a cybercrime treaty. The second session of the talks start on May 30 in Vienna.
The declaration says signatories will contribute to existing processes in the U.N., the G7 and G20 groups, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Governance Forum, and the Freedom Online Coalition.
The declaration says the signatories stand for encouraging information-sharing regarding security threats through relevant international forums, and reaffirm their commitment to responsible state behavior in cyberspace.
They also promise to work together to combat cybercrime, including cyber-enabled crime, and deter malicious cyber activity.
In a statement, the government said Canada will talk with nations, non-governmental agencies and others on how to fully realize the principles of the declaration.
Recently “the Internet has come under threat from bad actors seeking to undermine the benefits of the internet and cause harm,” the statement said, which is why Canada signed the declaration.
The declaration says partners signing on “intend to work toward an environment that reinforces our democratic systems and promotes active participation of every citizen in democratic processes, secures and protects individuals’ privacy, maintains secure and reliable connectivity, resists efforts to splinter the global Internet, and promotes a free and competitive global economy.”
Former U.S. cyber diplomat Christopher Painter told ITWorldCanada that the most important thing about the declaration is the number of countries that endorsed it and the expectation that they will work together to uphold and further its principles. “Among other things, internet freedom is continually threatened around the world, and strong statements in support, like those in the declaration, need to be coupled with collective action.”
The revelation of the declaration comes at a time when Russia is increasingly being isolated by other countries because of its invasion of Ukraine. In response to global criticism, according to one news report, Moscow has threatened jail time for spreading “fake news” about the war and has blocked Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This has led to speculation it will cut links to the global internet.
Russia is among a number of countries — including China — that are leery of an open internet. As a test, last summer Russia reportedly disconnected itself from the global internet. China has created its Great Firewall that can block undesired traffic in and out of the country, and the Great Canon, which can adjust and replace content.
While the internet has created innovation and vibrant communication, the declaration says over the last two decades access to the open Internet has been 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.
State-sponsored or condoned malicious behavior is on the rise, it adds, including the spread of disinformation and cybercrimes such as ransomware, affecting the security and the resilience of critical infrastructure while holding at risk vital public and private assets.
At the same time, the document says, countries have erected firewalls and taken
other technical measures, such as Internet shutdowns, to restrict access to journalism, information, and services, in ways that are contrary to international human rights commitments and obligations.
In addition to Canada and the U.S., those endorsing the declaration include Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, the European Commission, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
“This group of countries will have to expand for this initiative to be successful,” said David Masson, Canadian-based director of enterprise security at Darktrace. “It will also take more effort to counter the opposing forces out there who see the protection of human rights, the promotion of the free flow of information, increased privacy, and any regulations for a growing global digital economy as threats to their order systems.