The United States and more than 55 other governments have pledged to bolster democracy online by agreeing not to cut off access to the Internet, use algorithms to illegally spy on citizens or conduct disinformation campaigns to undermine elections, it said White House Thursday.
The governments said they would not block or limit the reach of legal content or illegally access any person’s personal data. The countries also pledged to promote internet access and protect the safety of users, especially young people and women.
The pledge is not legally binding, but the countries, including Ukraine, Argentina and New Zealand, said in the document that it “should be used as a reference for public policymakers, as well as citizens, businesses and civil society.”
Governments that have aggressively regulated US tech giants, such as the European Commission, Britain and Australia, have also endorsed the pledge. Brazil and India, two of the world’s leading technology markets, did not.
Senior Biden administration officials said the pledge — dubbed the Declaration for the Future of the Internet — helped as a counterpoint to countries, such as China and Russia, who are trying to shield the internet from the rest of the world. An item in the pledge says countries won’t make ‘social scorecards’, ostensibly a reference to China’s ‘social credit’ system.
US officials have become particularly concerned in recent years about Beijing’s efforts to expand its influence over global technology. China has promoted its telecommunications equipment for use in 5G wireless networks and invested in the domestic production of products such as microchips. Biden administration officials have spent months developing the pledge; their efforts initially met with some resistance from activists and experts who feared that measures included in a draft proposal last year would be difficult for smaller countries to join.