US, partners launch plan for 'future' of internet, as China, Russia use 'dangerous' malign practices

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The United States with more than 55 global partners on Thursday launched the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” – a “political commitment” among democratic nations to advance a “positive vision” for the internet and digital technologies amid “serious policy challenges,” and a “dangerous new model of internet policy” from countries like Russia and China.

The “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” (DFI) is set to affirm the fundamental principles regarding how countries should “comport themselves with respect to the Internet and to the digital ecosystem.”

“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 declaration stated. “As we increasingly work, communicate, connect, engage, learn and enjoy leisure time using digital technologies, our reliance on open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet will continue to grow.”

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The U.S. and the nations endorsing the declaration noted, however, that they were “also aware of the risks inherent in that reliance and the challenges we face.”

“Partners in this declaration 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,” the declaration stated.

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The countries signing onto DFI include: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Netherlands, Niger, North Macedonia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Uruguay, as well as the European Commission.

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India has not yet joined, but an official noted that even after the launch of DFI, other nations are welcome to join.

Senior administration officials said dangerous online trends have been developing for decades, but that has been amplified during Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“The last two months provide an extreme example of such behavior in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” an official said, adding that Russia has “aggressively promoted disinformation at home and abroad, censored internet news sources, blocked or shut down legitimate sited and gone so far as to physically attack the internet infrastructure in Ukraine.”

But officials said Russia is “hardly alone” in its malign internet practices, citing China and “other sensorial states” that have proven to be leaders in a “dangerous new model of internet policy.”

Officials also said that DFI will address opening the internet, even as it 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.”

DFI also is seeking to address state-sponsored or “condoned malicious behavior,” which they say is on the rise, citing the spread of disinformation, illegal harmful content, and can threaten the safety of individuals and contribute to radicalization and violence – as well as how ransomware cybercrime affects the security and resilience of critical infrastructure.

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“Disinformation and foreign malign activity is used to sow division and conflict between individuals or groups in society, undermining respect for and protection of human rights and democratic institutions,” officials said.

The U.S. and partner countries, through DFI, will work to promote human rights, protect the internet and refrain from government-imposed internet shutdowns, and inclusive and affordable access to the internet.”

The U.S. and partners will also “work together to combat cybercrime, including cyber-enabled crime, and deter malicious cyber activity.”

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Senior administration officials said Thursday the United States and partners will work together in the “weeks, months and years ahead to implement these principles and to promote this vision globally while respecting each other’s regulatory autonomy within our own jurisdictions and in accordance with our respective domestic laws and international legal obligations.”

Fox News’ Kristina Biddle contributed to this report. 

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