During the conference on internet governance, which took place in Paris on 12 November, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace”, a declaration signed by 370 states, NGOs and corporations. The purpose of this declaration is to address cybersecurity, which has been hit with massive attacks over the last few years. According to the Elysée, China, Russia and the United States have yet to sign on, but a critical mass of American actors, such as Microsoft, have already committed to the declaration’s provisions.
The call is aimed at relaunching discussion around an international code of conduct for the internet. Such discussions have fallen flat since 2017, when a group of United Nations experts separated over failure to establish a collective agreement on the subject, due in large part to differences between the major world powers.
"This call from Paris is a real turning point in the way of tackling cybersecurity problems in the world," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, in Paris during a meeting Sunday with journalists. "The only way to protect cyber security in the future is for everyone to work together, governments, the technology sector and civil society," he said.
Avoiding an Internet war
Signatories to the Paris Call have declared that they are “ready to act together” to prevent malicious cyber activities "that cause significant damage, either indiscriminate or systemic". They pledge to develop the capacities to "prevent foreign actors from disrupting electoral processes".
They also promise to prevent private actors from replicating cyber-attacks, at the risk of provoking conflagration. "There must be agreements put in place to avoid a catastrophic internet war," said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, drawing a parallel with nuclear weapons.
Emmanuel Macron also called for finding a path between "the Californian Internet", dominated by large private actors "who are not democratically elected", and "the Chinese-style internet, with a government that controls" its usage in a "hegemonic" system.
French experts at Facebook
To establish this intermediate path, France will conduct an experiment with Facebook on the issue of hate content and the use of social networks to spread hatred and provoke violence.
For six months, Facebook will open its doors to a group of half a dozen French officials, who will look closely at how the American giant filters hate content. These experts "will have the shared duty of making specific and concrete recommendations on the fight against hateful and offensive content," said Macron.
The American giant has indicated that the French group of experts would explore, “the best way to ensure that any regulation is smart and works for people is by governments, regulators and businesses working together to learn from each other and explore ideas,” said Nick Clegg, the new head of Facebook’s public policy team, in a statement.
Ludovic Dupin with AFP