Over the last two decades, the internet has profoundly changed how societies operate. People around the world now access and share information at an unprecedented rate. The business community, in particular, has used the internet to increase innovation and productivity, spurring global economic growth. In addition, the internet has transformed the relationship between governments and citizens, as many people use e-democracy tools to demand increased transparency and accountability.
Unfortunately, recognizing that the internet is now one of the most valued ways for people to connect, authoritarian states and others are increasingly closing the space for open internet. Governments around the world are now taking actions to quash dissent, intimidate independent voices, and prevent the open sharing of ideas in the most significant communication medium of our time. At the same time, the new and rapidly evolving nature of the internet means that many citizens are unaware or misinformed of how their fundamental rights such as the right to free speech, assembly, and association apply in a digital world.
To counter such oppressive actions and preserve internet openness, CIPE, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) teamed up to lead a multiyear joint initiative to support democratic and economic reformers – from civic organizations, media, and the business community – in applying internet norms and principles that are essential to democratic governance. CIPE in particular is bringing the voice of local private sector organizations to share the importance of an open internet as the world economy transitions to the online space, and empowering them to defend online rights in their local context. By connecting civic, political, and private sector leaders and independent media to develop robust local strategies to challenge the restrictive, closing internet spaces, CIPE is supporting civil society defenders of internet freedom.