Canada, the current Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) Chair, has said it is committed to building a future where digital progress benefits everyone, by advancing the four pillars of digital inclusion among which are greater connectivity to bridge digital divides worldwide and digital literacy to ensure users are empowered to navigate diverse content online.
Mr. Christopher Burton, Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Canada to Italy, made the commitment at a reception for representatives of member Governments of the FOC and members of the FOC’s Advisory Network made up of academics, civil society actors and people from the technical and business community. The reception was held on October 19 as part of the FOC’s Strategy and Coordination Meeting in Rome, Italy, which took place on October 19 and 20, 2022.
The other two pillars of digital inclusion are; civic participation, free from hate speech and disinformation, and other oppressive practices; and a safe online ecosystem for all, safeguarding users’ data and privacy and keeping them safe when engaging online, be it from mis-and disinformation, the proliferation of hate speech or threats of violence.
Mr. Burton noted that members of the FOC believe that inclusive and resilient societies in the digital age must be rooted in the principle that human rights apply equally offline and online and also united by the belief that one of the most pressing challenges of our time is how we can benefit from digital technology in ways that protect human rights and uphold our shared democratic values.
He noted that the FOC is the only multilateral coalition dedicated to defending human rights and democracy online, adding that the partnership serves as a critical inter-governmental, action-oriented forum with strong convening power across regions and stakeholder groups.
Emphasising the multistakeholder nature of the Coalition, he said the FOC is supported by civil society, industry, and academic expertise through its multi-stakeholder Advisory Network.
Speaking about Canada’s commitment since assuming the role of Chair of the FOC in January 2022, Mr. Burton said Canada has led the Coalition’s efforts to advance digital inclusion by shaping global norms through diplomatic coordination and meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement through its ambitious 23-commitment Program of Action.
He said the Ottawa Agenda was developed to defend Internet freedom and push back against digital authoritarianism because there is need for a collective response, one rooted in multilateralism and multi-stakeholder engagement because the problems require all stakeholders to work together.
Mr. Burton said since the inception of the FOC in 2011, profound changes have taken place in the digital domain which have transformed what it means to defend freedom, democracy, and human rights and the Coalition has reflected this through the development of a set of high-level recommendations for freedom online in this brave new digital age.
The Ottawa Agenda, Mr. Burton said, will replace the FOC’s decade-old Tallinn Agenda, which outlined the Coalition’s commitment to push for the strengthening of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online. He pointed out that through the six regional consultations hosted across the globe, new challenges have emerged on the freedom online landscape in recent years that urgently need our attention, he therefore encourage them to read the reports from these important and timely consults.
He said Canada is “committed to enhancing the FOC’s visibility and presence. This has been the FOC’s most active year on social media. At RightsCon, the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age, the FOC launched the #MyDigitalInclusion social media campaign, which has since reached an estimated audience of 11 million in over 50 countries.