Digital technologies have the potential to accelerate economic growth; to promote openness, transparency, and access to information; and to advance peace and security. But they can also be, and are, abused by repressive governments in their efforts to control populations, to stifle dissent, to throttle the flow of information and disseminate disinformation, and to keep tabs on opposing voices and censor them.
That is why the Freedom Online Coalition was established in 2011 at the initiative of the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Today the Coalition has 35 members across five continents.
“The Freedom Online Coalition is the only international group of countries specifically dedicated to supporting and advancing respect for human rights online and in digital contexts,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price. “Its purpose is to protect the promise of the internet as an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable global ‘network of networks’ and to ensure that the same human rights that people have offline are protected online.”
This year, the United States assumed the leadership of the Freedom Online Coalition. “As the United States assumes the chair of this group for the first time since its creation in 2011, we're focused on making the coalition even more effective in advancing the promise of the Internet and mitigating its perils,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“First, we'll stay focused on the Coalition's core mission of protecting fundamental freedoms, including through working with likeminded governments, civil society groups, tech companies and citizens to counter disruptions to Internet access,” he said.
“Second, we will stand up to and build resilience against the misuse of digital technologies and digital repression,” said Secretary Blinken. “Our governments can take steps to put in place guardrails that protect human rights when governments use surveillance technologies.”
“Third, we'll work to shape the norms and rules around emerging technologies, such as the responsible development and use of artificial intelligence and enforce those that already exist. Fourth, we'll continue to strengthen digital inclusion and promote safe online spaces, particularly for women and girls, LGBTQ plus people, ethnic, racial and religious minorities, people with disabilities and other marginalized groups,” he said.
“We find ourselves at a defining moment for the future of the Internet since its creation,” said Secretary Blinken. “We'll act with urgency and purpose because if we don't shape the future of the Internet in a way that aligns with our values, autocratic countries will.”