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G20 leaders look to curb abuse of the Internet

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 01 Jul 2019

In an age where the Internet has created a space for bullying, hate speech and criminal behaviour, the leaders of the G20 states have pledged to ensure the online security of their country citizens.

World leaders from 20 nation states, including South Africa, met in Osaka, Japan for the annual G20 Leaders' Summit, which took place at the weekend.

In a statement, the leaders reaffirmed to commitment to act to protect people from terrorist and violent extremism conducive to terrorism (VECT) exploitation of the Internet.

Referencing the live stream of the terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques, which left 50 people killed, the leaders say these incidents demonstrate the urgency with which we must fully implement relevant UN resolutions, the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy and other instruments, including the 2017 Hamburg G20 Leaders’ Statement on Countering Terrorism.

“For us all to reap the rewards of digitalisation, we are committed to realising an open, free and secure Internet. The Internet must not be a safe haven for terrorists to recruit, incite or prepare terrorist acts. To this end, we urge online platforms to adhere to the core principle, as affirmed in Hamburg, that the rule of law applies online as it does offline.

“This must be achieved in a way that is consistent with national and international law, including human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and access to information - we hold these in high regard. We commit to collaborate with states, international organisations, industry, and civil society in this endeavour.”

According to the leaders’ statement, online platforms have an important responsibility to protect their users. “We urge online platforms to meet our citizens' expectations that they must not allow use of their platforms to facilitate terrorism and VECT. Platforms have an important responsibility to protect their users.

“The complexity of the challenge and increasing sophistication of the criminals who would misuse the Internet - does not lessen the importance of platforms mitigating the proliferation of terrorist and VECT content, which harms society, via their platforms.”

World leaders at the 2019 G20 Summit held in Osaka, Japan.
World leaders at the 2019 G20 Summit held in Osaka, Japan.

Collaborative solutions

Earlier this year, World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee highlighted that although the Web has created opportunities and given marginalised groups a voice, it has also given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.

Berners-Lee called on governments to translate laws and regulations for the digital age.

He said: “They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people's rights and freedoms online.

“We need open Web champions within government: civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open Web.”

To boost online security, the group of G20 state leaders advocate collaboration.

“We welcome online platforms’ commitment to provide regular and transparent public reporting, as set out in their policies and procedures.

“We note the ongoing work of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) to drive this important cross-industry agenda, including responding to crises. However, further urgent action is needed. We encourage collaboration with industry, media outlets, researchers and civil society to strengthen GIFCT and expand its membership to be more inclusive.”

They added that a strengthened GIFCT would enhance cross industry understanding, collaboration and the capability of big and small companies to prevent terrorist and VECT exploitation of their platforms.

“We commit to continue working together to tackle this challenge, including by sharing our domestic experiences, in our countries and through international initiatives. Positive narratives to counter terrorist propaganda will continue to be an important element of this effort.

“We will remain engaged with industry progress and urge civil society, consumers and investors to do the same,” they said in the statement.