Empty promises? Declaration for Future of the Internet is nice on paper

Today, a global coalition of over 60 states launched A Declaration for the Future of the Internet. The non-binding statement calls for “a single global Internet – one that is truly open and fosters competition, privacy, and respect for human rights.”

Access Now agrees with the Declaration’s call for a global Internet that protects human rights and promotes democratic participation through inclusive and universal connectivity, privacy and security protections, and a multistakeholder approach to governance. At the same time, Access Now notes that the Declaration largely avoids addressing mass digital surveillance, which the U.S. government and its Five Eyes partners pioneered, and offers little to combat the rampant profiling and maximal data collection that characterizes the big tech business model and fuels disinformation campaigns.

“Born out of a black box, with unclear authorship, and not opened for consultation by stakeholders in civil society, so far as we can see, the statement lacks a supportive coalition and the input that leads to meaningful change,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “The exercise is redundant and distracting in many ways from the robustly debated outputs of groups like the Freedom Online Coalition and gatherings like the Internet Governance Forum, which thankfully are noted in the final paragraph.”

“Of course we support calls in the Declaration, like refraining from shutting down the Internet and reinvigorating an inclusive approach to internet governance, but we have seen so many global principles and statements come and go without meaningful progress,” said Jennifer Brody, U.S. Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “The burden is on the Biden Administration and allies to do more than talk the talk.”