19 May 2022

Data Matters: The Declaration for the Future of the Internet

On April 28, 2022, the White House announced, in partnership with 60 global partners, the launch of the Declaration for the Future of the Internet, also known as the “DFI.”

According to the White House briefing, the Declaration sets forth the shared principles regarding how parties should comport themselves with respect to the Internet, the digital ecosystem, and the digital economy. The Declaration affirms that the signatories are committed to defending the Internet, to governing it by a multi-stakeholder approach, and to promoting an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet for the world. The State Department’s newly formed Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy put out a nearly identical statement.

The Declaration is in response to a trend of rising digital authoritarianism. While a version of the agreement has been in the works for the past year, the White House points to the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and the associated Internet censorship, promotion of disinformation, and attacks on Ukrainian Internet infrastructure as salient examples of these troubling trends underscoring the significance of this launch. The DFI is the response of like-minded countries to meet this challenge and fight the creation of a “splinternet,” or a divided vision of the Internet. Instead, the DFI offers a broad, shared vision of the future of the Internet.

To advance these goals, the White House points to tangible steps it has taken through DHS, CISA, the State Department, and other means, to share operational information, cybersecurity assistance, and technology. Further, the newly established Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy will work to make these efforts more effective through diplomatic means. Yet, the White House insists that the Declaration is not a “U.S. effort,” but instead calls the launch a joint effort with allies and partners. The White House credits its work with other stakeholders, including civil society, academia, and industry leaders to further promote the shared vision of an open Internet through the DFI. The White House stresses that the Declaration builds on, and is complementary to, ongoing efforts at the United Nations and other interested multilateral coalitions.

The White House Fact Sheet lists the endorsing countries as Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, 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.

India is notably not on this list. The White House, however, emphasizes that the Declaration will remain open after the launch to any other partner who wishes to endorse the DFI and uphold its principles. The United States and its partners have not yet indicated any next steps for the DFI, nor any specific or concrete commitments.

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