In February 19 speeches at the Munich Security Conference, delivered virtually by the White House, President Joe Biden declared, “We need to shape the rules that will govern the advancement of technology and standards of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, so that they are used to uplift people, not pin them down.” A few weeks earlier, during a address at the State Department’s Truman building, the president said, “Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.
The Trump administration undermining years of work on internet diplomacy make technology ever more vital (and difficult) part of a renewed US engagement abroad. Digital issues can no longer be separated from ‘traditional’ foreign policy issues related to trade, human rights and security. And as the new White House begins to navigate these waters, one idea in particular has become Sort of Car Sticker for a global strategy: uniting democracies on technology.
In this vision, democratic cooperation and convergence would cover areas such as data privacy, artificial intelligence standards, internet governance practices and 5G security, all as a kind of counterweight to Beijing and in Moscow. As the Chinese and Russian governments increasingly assert themselves technologically and undermine human rights, and democracies question how to properly implement the rules and regulations for human rights systems artificial intelligence, this work is essential. But uniting democracies over technology may be one of the Biden administration’s toughest technological challenges.
First and foremost, are democracies against authoritarians the best paradigm for organizing countries into coalitions? There is no doubt that the United States should be doing a lot more, at home and abroad, to live up to the rhetoric of supporting democracy than it has done in the past four years. , but democracy and authoritarianism is not the only dividing line to be drawn. Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America (where I was previously a fellow) and former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, wrote in her 2017 book The chessboard and the web that “the decisive choice of our time is not democracies against autocracies, but open versus closed”. Another point of view is to look at “swing states”In internet governance, those who have disproportionate political impact and the power to decisively shape international processes, such as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Singapore. Not to mention the fact that some of the countries discussed within the framework of the techno-democracy club are increasingly, well, undemocratic.
Take the example of India. Presumably, the White House is seeking to engage with the Narendra Modi government on a range of foreign policy issues, particularly taking into account the growth of New Delhi. shelving and expulsion of Chinese technology. But how clearly does India fall into the camp of techno-democracies? The world’s largest democracy dominates the world in terms of the annual volume of Internet shutdowns; the Modi administration ruthlessly deleted Politics and digital rights in the Autonomous Region of Kashmir, and officials have once again Cut Internet access in several cities as protesters clash with police.
More broadly, Modi has repressed on the press, eroded judicial independence, and has infused more and more ethnonationalism into its rhetoric and policies. Journalist Debasish Roy Chowdhury Highlighted recently in Time the “laughable” “diplomatic platitudes” about American and Indian talks about democracy and the rule of law that are occurring alongside Modi’s undemocratic acts. Frankly, the Trump administration has highlighted the problems of a zero-sum tactic, with us or with China – and it remains to be seen whether pushing the democracies against authoritarian line will be the most productive. way of engaging or describing engagement with key partners abroad. Like Steven Feldstein, author of the next The rise of digital repression, recently wrote, this also includes the wealth of countries: “It seems counterintuitive to use an elite club of largely Western techno-democracies as a means of countering China’s global technological influence rather than pursuing a more inclusive model. .