The Global Network Initiative (GNI) welcomes the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet.” We appreciate the countries and regional organizations that participated in its launch and made a political commitment to upholding and advancing the principles contained within it.
As a global organization that brings together diverse stakeholders from academia, civil society, the investor community, and the private sector to support freedom of expression and privacy in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, GNI is especially pleased to see the commitment to protecting and strengthening “the multistakeholder system of Internet governance.” We expect that commitment to include efforts by signatory nations to strengthen the roles and opportunities for non-state actors, and civil society in particular, to meaningfully engage in relevant multilateral, regional, and domestic processes and forums. We appreciated the briefings afforded to us by some governments in the lead-up to this announcement and welcome continued opportunities to engage with signatories directly, as well as collectively in other relevant forums like the Freedom Online Coalition and the Internet Governance Forum.
As a multistakeholder organization with a dozen years of experience working toward accountability and collaboration around digital rights, we also welcome the invitation for the Declaration and the principles it contains to be “used as a reference” and as a measuring stick to hold signatory nations accountable in both their domestic and foreign policy. This must include not only the laws that signatory nations pass and the manner in which those are executed, but also the way government agencies and authorities procure, use, and shape relevant technologies and related standards. We will be particularly interested to see and support demonstrations of how these principles are carried out and applied in the context of law enforcement (both cybercrime and use of technology like facial recognition in analog spaces), cybersecurity (including through the promotion of and respect for strong encryption), surveillance activities, and content regulation, as well as how they are applied to new technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence.
Finally, as a collection of diverse members who work together through a framework based on international human rights principles, we are pleased to see human rights at the center of the Declaration. It is imperative that democratic, rule-of-law abiding nations not only resist but affirmatively push back on efforts to re-write the rules of state behavior, and we hope this initiative will dovetail with others intended to strengthen and renew human rights mechanisms in both the digital and analog spaces. These principles have since been reflected, through the lens of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, into clear guidelines for all corporate actors, and through the GNI Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy for ICT companies. We continue to believe that the best way to breathe renewed life into these timeless principles is through demonstrative actions, humility, openness to criticism, and a commitment to continued improvement.