To secure the future of the Internet, US-led tech diplomacy needs to change support - TechCrunch
The TechCrunch Global Affairs Project explores the growing connection between the tech sector and global politics.
As a result of their recent Democracy Conference, the US has suggested that "like-minded democracies should be" Alliance for the Future of the Internet "to maintain open, liberal values. up online. The latest in a long line of collaborative initiatives, it is a promising candidate for delivering progress. But as it stands now, it is in danger of falling short. Now, with disagreements between officials delaying the release, the U.S. must seize this opportunity for reconsideration.
The underlying rationale behind the Alliance remains strong: Internet freedom is increasingly under threat throughout the world, governments are competing to assert their authority, and the system of governance of decades of free-radicals is in control. willingness is now declining. As Tim Wu, adviser to the Biden administration on technical policy, said, "we are on the wrong track." Against this background, a new initiative is urgently needed to promote and protect open, liberal values in the Internet age.
In practice, however, the US focus on “like-minded democracies” works together with threats weakening their own goals. That's because the future of the open internet will not be secured by a small democratic club speaking to themselves alone or by employing coercion on their own. Instead, any Alliance needs to be far more inclusive, with a focus on setting the economic and security stimuli from day one to build a broad and lasting alliance.
This would represent a much more international approach to internet policy than the U.S. would typically have to take. For decades, the power of sovereignty outside America has subscribed to the open internet model: Despite the fact that only 7.1% of the world’s Internet users are based in the US , is home to 61% of major infrastructure services for the global internet. His leadership has supported the model of unlicensed innovation, interactive networks and "dumb pipes" - an infrastructure that does not see what content it carries - that have created such great economic and social value. Only China, home to 19% of global Internet users, has comparable geopolitical control.
But US hegemony can no longer be relied upon to maintain a free internet. Many countries are at a tense level in terms of how they manage the internet, with authoritarian internet models incorporating censorship, surveillance and quick closure gaining ground. And today, 3.7 billion people still lack internet access.
As connections improve, developing countries, which are home to most of this group, come to secure the future of the internet - and are now more likely to receive the necessary funding. from China than anywhere else. The move to a heterogeneous internet is given, but not directed - open or closed, liberal or authoritative.
On these trends, a direct focus on collaboration among today's democracies is becoming overwhelming across an ever smaller segment of the internet. Organizing only around values only clarifies those areas where traditional allies still disagree, such as the EU and the US on several areas of internet governance. For any alliance to succeed, therefore, it must move beyond the cliché of accepting “like-minded partners” and use a twin approach - prioritizing motivations. economic and security along with promises of internet openness, such as a ban on internet closure - to encourage its wider set of countries to unite.
This strategy will be particularly important in convincing those countries that are increasingly considering more restrictive internet policies. For example, since 2015, 31 of 54 African countries have partially blocked access to social media. Undoubtedly, some of these closures have been the result of prediction and a strong international response must be met. But other interventions were less idealistic: When violent online content has left leaders concerned about public safety, there is a combination of overcrowded policy, low state capacity and underinvestment in content modeling from major social media services. has led to difficult actions that could have otherwise been avoided. with more support.
It's not too late to capture this trend and get major internet freedom. But such efforts will not succeed through coercion alone. While the fight against authoritarianism is crucial, allowing all debates to be wrapped up in the language of polarized “democracies against authors” can close opportunities for cooperation, simply accelerating more restrictions and breaches. The impact of this information can already be seen in Africa, where the West too often treats states as little more than sites for "proxy battles" in the "cold war" of the US-China. None of these comments are helpful.
China is not a monolith: It is an ally, a competitor and an enemy to the West all at the same time. The US, the EU and others cannot force China out of the global internet infrastructure market, and they should not want or need. Africa, the US and China would all be better served by a globally competitive market for internet infrastructure, with no state either monopolizing supply or establishing the entire bill.
Similarly, African countries not only have their own political priorities and challenges, but it is often in the West 's own economic interests to offer support. It would cost, for example, to connect all 3.7 billion people without internet access, just 0.02% of the total national revenue for OECD states - a group of countries including the US, the UK, Korea and Japan - generating 25x gross output.
But when the G7 launched the “Build Back Better World” project this year, designed to compete with China's infrastructure offer, it did not come without new money. At the same time little effort has been made to reform the World Bank and IMF development programs, which could be influenced by the U.S., despite being bureaucratic non-competitive, jeopardizing dangerous and costly for many African leaders who are opposed to fragile development pathways and urgent demands for job creation.
For years, we lacked the necessary leadership and political ambition for such a program. But the Alliance has the potential to usher in the future of the internet. To succeed, it must show that there is no path to success that weakens the core freedom of the internet, while at the same time providing the right guidance and incentives to enable a different approach. While there will be some countries that will never register, these strong stimuli could lead to many "swing states" - such as Indonesia, Kenya or Brazil - coming together. Only by building broad, international alliances that seek to uphold the economic interests and security of all will the open, global internet be protected for the long term.