U.S. and More Than 55 Other Countries Pledge to Keep an Open Internet

The White House said Thursday that the United States and more than 55 other governments have pledged to strengthen democracy online by agreeing not to block access to the Internet, not to use algorithms to illegally spy on citizens, or to run false information campaigns to undermine elections.

Governments have said they will not block or restrict access to legal content or gain access to a person’s personal data illegally. Countries also pledged to promote access to the Internet and protect the safety of its users, especially youth and women.

The pledge is not legally binding, but countries including Ukraine, Argentina and New Zealand said in the document that it should be used “as a reference for public policy makers, as well as citizens, businesses and civil society organizations.”

Governments that aggressively regulate American tech giants, such as the European Commission, Britain and Australia, also backed the pledge. Brazil and India, the two most important markets for technology in the world, did not.

Senior officials in the Biden administration say the pledge – known as the Declaration for the Future of the Internet – helps serve as a deterrent to countries such as China and Russia, which seek to shut down the Internet from the rest of the world. One item in the pledge states that countries will not create “social scorecards”, which largely refers to China’s “social credit” system.

U.S. officials have been particularly concerned about Beijing’s efforts to increase its influence over global technology in recent years. China has promoted its telecommunications equipment for use in 5G wireless networks and has invested in domestic production of products such as microchips. Officials from the Biden administration spent months developing the pledge; His efforts initially met with some resistance from activists and experts who feared that the measures included in last year’s draft proposal would be difficult for smaller countries to sign.

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