The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a partnership of 34 countries working together to advance Internet freedom worldwide, on the 10th Anniversary of its founding has committed to mobilising effectively and gaining momentum in promoting a rules-based, democratic and inclusive world where the use of the Internet and digital technologies reinforces human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
These commitments and more were contained in the FOC 10th Anniversary Helsinki Declaration released in December 2021.
The Foreign Ministers of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) Member States, strongly reaffirmed their commitment to protect and promote human rights for all, both online and offline, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments.
They noted that the FOC’s mission to promote Internet freedom and protect human rights online is more vital than ever adding that access to free, open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet by all worldwide strengthens democracies and security.
The Declaration notes that democracy and human rights in the digital age hinge on meaningful access to and use of digital technologies for all and this requires not only connectivity, but also digital and media literacy and an online environment conducive to inclusive and open civic participation.
It points out that a lack of digital inclusion and accessibility of digital solutions prevents people, especially women and persons or groups in a vulnerable situation such as children, persons with disabilities and older persons, from fully realising their human rights and the potential and benefits provided by the use of Internet and digital technologies.
The FOC, in the Declaration, unequivocally condemned the use of digital technologies for repressive and authoritarian purposes, through actions such as Internet shutdowns and network disruptions inconsistent with international human rights law as well as arbitrary or unlawful surveillance and censorship.
It vowed to foster multi-stakeholder cooperation to address both hate speech, and disinformation in a manner that respects human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Coalition also called on state and non-state actors to immediately cease actions incompatible with international human rights. It encouraged the private sector to promote and increase non-discrimination, transparency, traceability, and accountability in the design, development, procurement, dissemination and use of digital technologies, with appropriate protections for intellectual property.
The FOC promised to redouble its efforts in working together for free, open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet worldwide through the following actions:
- Strengthening the FOC’s leadership in promoting respect for and protection and enjoyment of all human rights including the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and right to be free from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy without any discrimination both offline and online;
- Promoting at the UN and other international fora initiatives and partnerships for achieving universal access to the Internet by 2030;
- Taking action in speaking out against and countering Internet shutdowns, network disruptions and censorship that are inconsistent with international human rights law;
- Addressing disinformation and other harmful content online and ensuring that any measures are in accordance with international law, including international human rights law;
- Promoting vibrant civil society, supporting human rights defenders and combating online violations that shrink civic space, such as arbitrary or unlawful surveillance practices;
- Promoting a human-rights based approach in the design, development, deployment, dissemination, evaluation and regulation of digital technologies;
- Promoting policies, initiatives, education and research that support digital inclusion and public participation with special attention to the empowerment of women and persons or groups in a vulnerable situation such as children, persons with disabilities and older persons;
- Encouraging and engaging in dialogue and cooperation with the private sector on the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
- Supporting and strengthening meaningful engagement and cooperation of all stakeholders, including governments, industry, media, civil society and academia, in Internet governance and digitalisation;
- Fostering dialogue to promote a free, open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet and a human-rights based approach in digitalisation with non-FOC member states.
The FOC was established in 2011 in response to the growing recognition of the importance of the Internet for the enjoyment of human rights. Since then, the number of Internet users has exploded and revolutionised the way societies function. This digital revolution has generated new possibilities for democratic engagement, including through the free flow of information and interaction between people. The Members of the FOC, promote human-rights based and inclusive digitalisation and equal access to and use of the Internet.
To download and read the full text, please click FOC 10th Anniversary Helsinki Declaration.