Editorial

G7 tech leaders agree new proposals to boost online safety

G7 leaders agree principles to improve online safety include commitments on human rights and protecting young people

Posted 29 April 2021 by

Leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and EU signed a declaration containing a series of shared principles on how to tackle the global challenge of online safety, ahead of G7 Summit, to be hosted in Cornwall in June.

They propose that online firms should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritise the protection of children. Other measures include plans to “turbocharge exports” by digitising paper-based systems for international trade transactions and improving the free flow of data.

Elsewhere, international regulators and policymakers will meet with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority in the autumn to discuss long term coordination and enforcement.

The joint ministerial declaration was signed at a virtual meeting hosted by UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“As a coalition of the world’s leading democracies and technological powers, we want to forge a compelling vision of how tech should support and enhance open and democratic societies in the digital age,” he said in a statement.

“Together we have agreed a number of priorities in areas ranging from internet safety to digital competition to make sure the digital revolution is a democratic one that enhances global prosperity for all.”

What was agreed

The G7 countries have agreed that tech companies have a corporate responsibility for their users’ safety. This means they should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritise the protection of children. These are based on underlying principles in the UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper.

They also agreed to develop a framework for the use of electronic transferable records to address legal barriers and coordinate domestic reforms so companies can use digital solutions for the shipment of goods and trade finance – replacing slow and outdated paper transactions. 

The leaders said a more joined-up approach to regulation and promoting competition in digital markets is needed to better serve consumers and businesses. Regulators have agreed to meet in the autumn to discuss these issues further.

The G7 will also build evidence on the impacts of data localisation, promote regulatory cooperation and accelerate the development of best practice approaches for data sharing across a broader set of priority areas. These areas may include transport, science and research, education and natural disaster mitigation. 

They also agreed to collaborate on how democratic governments and stakeholders can support the development of digital technical standardsto which online tools, services and protocols should be measured.

For the first time the G7 also discussed the importance of promoting security and resilience in critical digital infrastructure, in particular in telecoms, including 5G and future communications technologies. In the declaration, G7 countries commit to developing their collaboration on this throughout the year.

The talks came after Dowden separately spoke with his US counterparts this week to “emphasise the importance of global collaboration to protect people online and drive the international debate in this area.”

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