At the Internet Governance Forum 2018 in Paris, European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Members of the European Parliament Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, Gunnar Hökmark, Julia Reda, Yana Toom and Julie Ward signed a common Declaration.

"This year‘s Internet Governance Forum took place alongside the Paris Peace Forum, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I, recognising that increasingly peace, security and stability must involve the digital realm. In the wake of two catastrophic wars in the last century, both the United Nations and the European Union projects were created, two milestones that continue to remind us every day of the importance of appropriate models and institutions for governance. More than ever we now need to ensure that we are well equipped for good governance of the cyber sphere.

The internet must be reclaimed as a common good for humanity that can drive improvements in society and the economy. Building and maintaining an open, transparent and inclusive system of internet governance will help to ensure these benefits accrue to all.

We witness, however, the emergence of new trends that can lead to polarisation and fragmentation and are contrary to the multi-stakeholder principle that the European Union strongly supports. In order to stop these tendencies which are counterproductive for the development of an open, free and inclusive internet, it is paramount to rebuild trust in the internet and to increase cooperation among all the parties involved, including governments, private sector, civil society organisations and individual users.

These processes will necessarily include the rebuilding of trust in democratic processes and their institutions, both currently under serious threat due to the spread of misinformation, election interference through targeted social media activity, and fully fledged cyber-attacks on election infrastructure including data theft.

For these reasons, we stressed the importance of addressing some of the most pressing challenges for the Internet in the coming years: the role of platforms in preventing abuse, the need to ensure that users are in control of their data, as well as global cooperation to fight cybersecurity threats. We see the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace as an invitation to further discussions at a time when international cooperation is dramatically challenged.

In Paris, we strongly argued also for the necessity of an ethical, inclusive and transparent development of artificial intelligence that will incorporate the European values of democracy, fundamental rights, accountability and inclusiveness.

It would be impossible, however, to rebuild trust in the technology and create an open and inclusive internet, without the necessary investment in promoting digital literacy as well as the development of digital skills and competences for users that will enable them to benefit from technological innovation, whilst at the same time being fully aware of related challenges and risks. The increased transparency and accountability of the technology must go hand in hand with increased individuals’ awareness and empowerment regarding the powerful effects, as well as possible distortions, that their own use of the internet can have. In that respect it is paramount to encourage digital literacy and critical thinking which can enable individuals to be not only digital consumers and users but active and responsible citizens in connected societies.

While we strongly call for greater involvement and responsibility of all the parties involved, we also advocate for the protection of fundamental rights online, such as freedom of information and freedom of speech online, as well as for the users’ right to privacy and control over their personal data.

In order to face all these challenges, we need stronger and more effective internet governance. The European Union is a strong supporter of the multi-stakeholder model for internet governance and of the IGF as the most inclusive platform for this debate to take place.

Increased power comes with increased responsibility for all the stakeholders involved. We need a more empowered IGF that can do more than discuss emerging issues but also seek to agree on shared principles and policy standards, in line with the original ambition of Internet Governance, and in order to stop fragmentation and polarisation.

We already welcomed, last year, the first steps taken in Geneva with the Geneva messages, and we acknowledge the effort of the three European IGF hosts to strengthen and further develop the IGF. We truly hope that this process of renewal can lead to tangible results in Berlin in 2019.

We confirm that Europe has the duty and the responsibility to play a leading role in the internet governance debate and in strengthening the IGF. We acknowledge, at the same time, that a strengthened, empowered and more effective governance for an open and unfragmented internet must include all the different actors coming from all regions of the world."

The outcomes of the 2018 Internet Governance Forum were summarised in the Paris Messages. You can read them here.