U.S. Enters International Initiative to Oppose Online Disinformation and Censorship

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The consortium of countries will work to advance an inclusive global internet to combat digital censorship.

The U.S. joined a new consortium of nations focused on keeping the global internet free from disinformation and censorship, largely a response to Russia’s physical and digital invasion of Ukraine, where internet infrastructure is being attacked as part of the ongoing war.

Announced on Wednesday in a National Security Council briefing, a senior administration official said that the U.S. is formally launching the Declaration for the Future of the Internet initiative in collaboration with over 50 other countries. 

“The declaration affirms fundamental principles regarding how countries should comport themselves with respect to the internet and to the digital ecosystem, the digital economy, that commits governments to promoting an open and free global, interoperable, reliable and secure internet for the world,” the spokesperson said. 

The Declaration for the Future of the Internet is modeled after principles belying other multinational organizations like the United Nations, World Trade Organization and the Group of Seven. Current member countries include Italy, Israel, Bulgaria, Canada, Belgium, Iceland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Spain, Taiwan, Uruguay and more. 

“The US and partners endorsing this declaration will work together in the weeks, months and years ahead to implement these principles to promote this vision globally, while respecting each other's regulatory autonomy within our own jurisdictions and in accordance with our respective domestic laws, international legal obligations,” the spokesperson added.

Promoting human rights online is a priority of the initiative. The spokesperson said that the group has been in the making for about a year, as the U.S. worked in tandem with other “like minded” democratic countries to combat online misinformation.

The Declaration for the Future of the Internet is looking to welcome more countries into its membership as operations continue. 

“We believe that DFI will advance a positive vision for digital technologies anchored by democratic values,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to working with governments, 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.”

Among the authoritarian countries the Declaration for the Future of the Internet looks to work against are Russia and China, both of which have faced allegations of human rights abuses and censorship within their own internet networks. 

The spokesperson said that the Biden Administration sees the coalition as a response to the divisiveness seen online amid global political turmoil and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has fueled deep social rifts mirrored online. 

“We're not here to splinter the internet, but frankly to save it from splintering,” the spokesperson said. “The internet was originally a network of networks designed to interconnect everyone and we think there's extraordinary value in that and we're here to try to restore that vision.”

While this group intends to foster unity within global internet connectivity, the U.S. has recently taken defensive digital measures as tensions between Russia heighted. In March, President Joe Biden issued a statement warning of a rising threat of cyberattacks on the U.S.’s critical infrastructure sectors, and U.S. lawmakers have responded by proposing new legislation that would enhance cybersecurity in sensitive fields like health care. 

Officials reiterated that the Declaration for the Future of the Internet is not a bilateral treaty or agreement. Rather, the consortium will work to dismantle violations of civil liberties like unlawful surveillance, internet connectivity interference and censorship.