The Center for Democracy & Technology joins a coalition of civil society and industry stakeholders to raise concerns about the human rights risks of internet fragmentation and setting out principles for an open, interconnected, and interoperable internet.
JOINT LETTER TEXT:
The open, interconnected and interoperable Internet is increasingly under threat. Technical, legislative and policy developments have furthered the risk that the Internet fragments into siloed parts. These developments include bans or restrictions on international data flows; techno-protectionist initiatives, interference with free expression, privacy, and/or encryption; and Internet shutdowns – among other hazards. These developments may pose a threat to the open, interconnected and interoperable Internet, along with its associated benefits to social and economic development, while also harming human rights.
Internet fragmentation can take place at all layers of the Internet. Technical fragmentation, whereby conditions in the underlying infrastructure impede the ability of systems to fully interoperate, is seen at the physical, network, transport and application layers. Legislative and policy fragmentation, whereby policies and actions constrain or prevent certain uses of the Internet to create, distribute or access information, is seen at the content layer and, increasingly, at other layers of the Internet.
We highlight the following principles:
Protect and promote human rights, ensuring that the work of the UN and all its agencies continues to be anchored in the values and obligations of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Promote the open, distributed and interconnected nature of the Internet, so that it can continue to be a globally connected, stable, unfragmented, scalable, accessible and open network-of-networks.
Protect and promote the global free flow of information, ensuring that the economic and social benefits of the Internet and related digital technologies continue to flourish and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The digital economy also depends upon the free flow of information, and ensuring compatibility across a diverse set of laws and regulations is essential in this regard.
Advocate for efforts to address the root causes of Internet fragmentation. Laws that fail to take into account the architecture of the Internet and place barriers to global connectivity contribute towards a more fragmented Internet. Such laws mainly focus on the deprivation of rights such as privacy, data protection and free expression, which undergirds many fragmentation initiatives. Promoting these rights on a global basis can defend against the forces of fragmentation.
Encourage cooperation to promote security and increase trust in the Internet. The implementation of international best practices is essential in addressing security threats and reducing vulnerabilities. To operationalise these, cooperation is needed among different stakeholders to ensure that these security principles do not inadvertently limit the global, open nature of the Internet.
Promote efforts to expand meaningful connectivity to the Internet. Access to the Internet plays a vital role in the full realisation of human development, and facilitates the enjoyment of a number of human rights and freedoms as well as economic, social and educational benefits. To be able to do this, regular, affordable, and secure broadband access on an appropriate device is critical. Access must be coupled with meaningful use of the Internet, which is enabled by digital literacy, trust, and online environments free from harassment, discrimination and violence, among others.
Commit to preserve and strengthen the multistakeholder model, particularly by convincing Member States to ensure that UN policymaking processes must be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, and that existing fora tasked with Internet governance challenges, such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), are further strengthened with appropriate human resources and funding. Meaningful participation of interested and informed stakeholders is essential to ensure that outcomes are both effective and accepted. It is particularly important to ensure the meaningful participation of stakeholders from the global South and other typically under-represented groups in global public policymaking pertaining to the Internet, including women.
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Asociación Latinoamericana de Internet – ALAI
Centre for Democracy and Technology
DigitalSENSE Africa [ITREALMS Media]
Free Expression Myanmar
Global Partners Digital
U.S. Council for International Business
The World Wide Web Foundation via the Contract for the Web
Vint Cerf, Internet Pioneer