An open internet – where all citizens can freely express themselves, share and debate ideas, and conduct commerce – is an essential part of a modern, vibrant democracy. Ensuring that the internet remains both open and accessible is necessary to strengthen democratic engagement, enable equal participation in the market economy, and promote social accountability.
What are the threats to an open internet?
The increasing shift of political and social discourse to the internet has also led to a rise in actors that use the internet as a tool to silence dissent, promote violence, and prolong inequality. The new and rapidly evolving nature of the internet means that many citizens do not know how their fundamental rights such as to speech, assembly, and association apply in the digital world.
The Open Internet Through a Democratic Lens
The Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition (IRPC) of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum has developed a solid, sensible set of norms and standards based on the fundamental belief that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights, which must be respected, protected and fulfilled in the online environment. Adherence to a universally applied set of standards and norms for a free and open internet that reflects a commitment to inclusion, participation, and accountability is a vital component of modern democracy. To create a framework for internet openness for democracy advocates to fight for more democratic societies based on the IRPC principles, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) are developing A Democratic Guide to Applying the Internet Rights and Principles.
Who are the Principles for?
As democratic citizens and reformers navigate changing political environments, we hope this guide will help activists working for democracy in an internet age and connect them in global peer networks to exchange best practices. These guides serve as an advocacy tool that organizations can utilize in pushing governments, the private sector, and civil society to adhere to universal human rights through open internet principles and standards.