When the Internet was invented in the late 1980s, it was based on certain fundamental founding principles.
The idea that any individual around the world could be interconnected with another.
As Tim Berners Lee, the Briton who invented the World Wide Web, said: “It’s for everyone.”
This Declaration for the Future of the Internet is a recommitment to that vision.
It is a commitment to champion an open and inclusive internet; an Internet that respects human rights, privacy and freedom.
And I’m extremely encouraged to see that online safety is a key principle in this statement.
As the UK’s Digital Secretary, doing more to protect people online is one of my top priorities – and last month I was proud to introduce a groundbreaking Security Bill to the UK Parliament online that will make the internet safer for everyone.
Our legislation has at its heart the protection of children.
It will tackle criminal activity online.
And most importantly, it is underpinned by our commitment to fundamental freedoms and human rights – especially freedom of expression.
I believe we are at a turning point in the digital age.
We are entering a new chapter where tech companies are held fully responsible for the content of their platforms…
…that they keep their own promises to their users, to protect people from things like toxic racist and misogynistic abuse, and to protect children from cyberbullying and other harmful behavior…
That we ensure that the Internet is a place where people’s rights to participate in society and engage in meaningful debate are protected.
Our measures – and the measures we see elsewhere, such as in the EU and Australia – will help make the internet a safer place for everyone.
And we will continue to work with international partners to ensure that the promise of a free, open and secure Internet – in which everyone can safely participate – is realized and defended.
To do this, we need a positive view of the values that underpin our Internet, and which should underpin tomorrow’s digital technology.
Last year I brought together a diverse set of countries and stakeholders at the Future Tech Forum and the UK led discussions at the Global Internet Governance Forum to discuss exactly those values.
And our overriding conclusion was that the Internet has been so successful because we have worked together on its governance – not just as governments but across civil society, technical experts and industry.
However, in recent years we have seen challenges to this approach.
Challenges that have sought to distance the internet from what has made it so successful – notably the open and collaborative nature of its multi-stakeholder governance system – and those that propose to remake the very heart of the internet.
As open societies, we must be clear that we will resist attempts to subject the Internet to restrictive government control – or to regulate it through concentrated, top-down processes.
Only by continuing to work together can we capitalize on the benefits of a truly global Internet that benefits everyone.
The UK is proud to work with others to support this goal, through this statement, as well as through our own efforts to bring stakeholders together.
Ultimately, we are all here because we believe the Internet holds enormous potential to benefit our lives.
But over the next decade, the challenge we face is to fight for these values – which will require vigilance and proactive collaboration.
From the foundation of the Internet’s technical protocols to the safety of our citizens online, governments must come together to support this positive vision of an open, free and secure global Internet for all.
This statement is an important step in that direction and I am delighted to endorse it on behalf of the UK.