The Declaration for the Future of the Internet (DFI), a joint declaration for the regulation of digital space, has been signed by 61 states. Among them, only four African countries …
On April 28, four African countries signed the Declaration for the Future of the Internet (DFI). The document, which deals with the common principles of the use and regulation of the Internet, seems to be an international treaty. When the DFI was signed, four African countries were among the sixty signatories: Kenya, Niger, Senegal and Cape Verde.
A strong statement, because the DFI especially requires signatories to certify that they are part of a “global internet” where “governments refrain from cutting off the Internet or restricting access to it.” But also to “encourage the exchange of information on security threats” and avoid “any blocking of content that complies with the principles of net neutrality.”
For an uninformed audience, the expressions used in the DFI text may sound like a boat conversation. But it’s nothing. The DFI continues discussions at the Democracy Summit last December. The document is an agreement of public international law, with the force of law.
Internet closures in Africa
For journalist and specialist in Big Data and Cyber Defense, Faustine Ngila, Internet closures and the blocking of social networks in African countries cost Africa $ 2 billion every year. According to the British company Top10VPN, 21 African states cut off access to the Internet or social media between 2020 and 2022.
More or less legitimate cuts, and for various and varied reasons. For example, the blocking of social media in certain African countries was initially a problem of social media transgression of the national laws of the affected countries. In others, especially Chad, which has the longest disruption – WhatsApp was inaccessible for 5 months in 2020 – it was a matter of cracking down on political opposition. Like in Tanzania where, in the same year, the internet was inaccessible for more than 2 months. In Togo, there were cuts on social media at the time of the last election.
However, the DFI was not signed by those African countries accused of “restricting freedom of internet access” who refrained from signing the document, as did other African countries where the internet has not yet been never cut.
According to the American think tank Brookings Institution, the DFI was created “to divide the virtual world.” “The Declaration for the Future of the Internet legislates a global gap. (…) Calls for the eventual elimination of countries whose governments are considered authoritarian. It also calls for the concentration of personal data collected, ”says the think tank.
Who controls the Internet?
Who owns or controls the Internet? Few Internet users know this, but it is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that physically controls the keys to Internet interconnectivity. One of the creators of the Internet protocol, Jon Pastel, was precisely against the first attempts to centralize Internet protocols within a single body – which was then the IANA -.
Because ICANN was created towards the end of the Cold War, in order to prevent the establishment by East Germany of a regulation on data storage and protection. A concern shared by Pastel. But as a result of the latter’s death, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, ICANN was created, and with it an Internet architecture that gives control to a Silicon Valley company.
The “net neutrality” referred to in the DFI began to be legislated after the attacks of September 11, 2001. It was a matter of defining a legal framework for the electronic correspondence monitoring component of the Patriot Act. , the US Anti-Terrorism Act. which, among other things, had legitimized torture. A law that has served as a comparative law for several pieces of legislation, including most anti-terrorism laws in French-speaking African countries. Net neutrality has since been manifested in the United States in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), or Arcep in France, ECA in Ethiopia, ARTCI in Côte d’Ivoire … That is, a ” source of the Internet “.
“Failed attempt to embarrass China and Russia”
With the signing of the DFI, Niger, Senegal, Cape Verde and Kenya adhere to the “exchange of information on security threats”. These countries are also committed to “promoting work to reap the benefits of free data flows with confidence based on shared values as like-minded, democratic, open and open partners abroad.” That is, an international constitution for the use of the Internet, which removes the signatory countries the right to cut off their connection, even if it depends on their national security.
Read: Is Africa losing its cybersecurity?
In fact, according to an article entitled “Multi-Stakeholder Internet Governance”, the signatory countries are obliged to “protect and strengthen the system of Internet governance, including the development and deployment of their basic technical protocols and other standards and related protocols “.
The Brookings Institution considers the statement a “division” and considers it a “failed attempt to embarrass China and Russia.” With 60 signatory countries, including almost all Western countries, the DFI also appears to be a simple reaction to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. For web specialists, it is a secretly approved international treaty, which obliges signatory countries to never integrate several protocols —X.25, DNIC, etc.— or, for example, a wide area network (WAN). within reach. Not to mention, of course, the overlay networks and their protocols, such as those used for Freenet.