The United States, Japan and the European Union have endorsed a declaration to promote an open and free internet, despite concerns about digital authoritarianism seen in countries such as Russia and China.
More than 55 global partners, including the Group of Seven nations, Australia, Taiwan and Ukraine, joined the initiative, opposing the use of digital tools to repress freedom of expression and deny other human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The declaration said that they believe in the potential of digital technologies to promote peace, democracy, peace, the rule of law, sustainable development, and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The countries should not be hampered by government-imposed internet shutdowns and blocking access to lawful internet content and services, while protecting privacy and advancing what they consider to be trustworthy network infrastructure and services suppliers, according to a set of principles.
The principles, which include the promotion of human rights and affordable internet access, are not legally binding.
A senior official of the administration of the U.S. President Joe Biden said the last few months have been an extreme example of digital authoritarianism in connection with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and that the declaration did not specifically name authoritarian regimes that are posing challenges.
Russia has promoted disinformation at home and abroad, censored internet news sources, blocked and shut down legitimate websites, and also touched on China, which is known for its tight control of the internet, the official said.
A 2021 report by human rights group Freedom House said that the conditions for internet users in China were deeply oppressive and confirmed the country's status as the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for the seventh consecutive year.
The report said that the central city of Wuhan had first detected the COVID 19 pandemic and criticised Chinese-produced vaccines, as well as censored calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID 19 epidemic.
India, the world's largest democracy and known for its traditionally close ties with Russia, was not among the economies that joined the declaration.
According to Biden administration officials, the United States is expecting more like-minded countries to come on board to support the move.