The United States and more than 55 other governments have pledged to reinforce democracy online by agreeing not to shut down access to the internet, use algorithms to illegally spy on citizens or run misinformation campaigns to undermine elections, the White House said on Thursday.
The governments said they would not block or limit the reach of legal content or illegally gain access to an individual’s personal data. The countries also pledged to promote access to the internet and protect the safety of its 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 organizations.”
Governments that have aggressively regulated American tech giants, like the European Commission, Britain and Australia, endorsed the pledge as well. Brazil and India, two of the most important markets for technology in the world, did not.
Senior Biden administration officials said the pledge — called the Declaration for the Future of the Internet — helped to serve as a counterpoint to countries, like China and Russia, that try to wall off the internet from the rest of the world. One item in the pledge says countries won’t create “social score cards,” seemingly a reference to China’s “social credit” system.
American officials have grown especially worried in recent years about Beijing’s efforts to extend its influence over global technology. China has promoted its telecommunications equipment to use in 5G wireless networks and invested in domestic production of products like microchips. Biden administration officials spent months developing the pledge; their efforts initially faced some resistance from activists and experts who worried that measures included in a draft proposal last year would be difficult for smaller countries to sign on to.