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Cloudflare’s commitment to the 2023 Summit for Democracy


6 min read
Cloudflare’s commitment to the 2023 Summit for Democracy

On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, the US Government will launch the Summit for Democracy 2023, following up on the inaugural Summit for Democracy 2021. The Summit is co-hosted by the United States, Costa Rica, Zambia, the Netherlands, and South Korea. Cloudflare is proud to participate in and contribute commitments to the Summit because we believe that everyone should have access to an Internet that is faster, more reliable, more private, and more secure.  We work to ensure that the responsibility to respect human rights is embedded throughout our business functions. Cloudflare’s mission — to help build a better Internet — reflects a long-standing belief that we can help make the Internet better for everyone.

Our mission and core values dovetail with the Summit’s goals of strengthening democratic governance, respect for human rights and human rights defenders, and working in partnership to strengthen respect for these values. As we have written about before, access to the Internet allows activists and human rights defenders to expose abuses across the globe, allows collective causes to grow into global movements, and provides the foundation for large-scale organizing for political and social change in ways that have never been possible before.

What is the Summit for Democracy?

In December 2021, in an effort to respond to challenges to democracy worldwide, the United States held the first ever global Summit for Democracy. The Summit provided an opportunity to strengthen collaboration between democracies around the world and address common challenges from authoritarian threats.  The United States invited over 100 countries plus the President of the European Commission and the United Nations Secretary-General. The Summit focused on three key themes: (1) defending against authoritarianism; (2) addressing and fighting corruption; and (3) promoting respect for human rights, and gave participants an opportunity to announce commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights. The Summit was followed by a Year of Action, during which governments implemented their commitments to the Summit.

The 2023 Summit will focus more directly on partnering with the private sector to promote an affirmative vision for technology by countering the misuse of technology and shaping emerging technologies so that they strengthen democracy and human rights, which Cloudflare supports in theory and in practice.

The three-day Summit will highlight the importance of the private sector’s role in responding to challenges to democracy. The first day of the Summit is the Thematic Day, where Cabinet-level officials, the private sector and civil society organizations will spotlight key Summit themes. On the second day of the Summit, the Plenary Day, the five co-hosts will each host a high-level plenary session. On the final day of the Summit, Co-Host Event Day, each of the co-hosts will lead high-level regional conversations with partners from government, civil society, and the private sector.

Cloudflare will be participating in the Thematic Day and the Co-Host Event Day in Washington, DC, in addition to other related events.

Cloudflare commitments

In advance of the 2023 Summit, the United States issued a Call to Action to the private sector to consider commitments that advance an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal. The United States encouraged the private sector to make commitments that align with the Presidential Initiative on Democratic Renewal, the Declaration on the Future of the Internet, and the Summit’s four objectives:

  • Countering the misuse of technology
  • Fighting corruption
  • Protecting civic space
  • Advancing labor rights

Cloudflare answered the United States’s call to action and made commitments to (1) help democratize post-quantum cryptography; (2) work with researchers to share data on Internet censorship and shutdowns; and (3) engage with civil society on Internet protocols and the application of privacy-enhancing technologies.

Democratizing post-quantum cryptography by including it for free, by default

At Cloudflare, we believe to enhance privacy as a human right the most advanced cryptography needs to be available to everyone, free of charge, forever. Cloudflare has committed to including post-quantum cryptography for free by default to all customers – including individual web developers, small businesses, non-profits, and governments. In particular, this will benefit at-risk groups using Cloudflare services like humanitarian organizations, human rights defenders, and journalists through Project Galileo, as well as state and local government election websites through the Athenian Project, to help secure their websites, APIs, cloud tools and remote employees against future threats.

We believe everyone should have access to the next era of cybersecurity standards–instantly and for free. To that end, Cloudflare will also publish vendor-neutral roadmaps based on NIST standards to help businesses secure any connections that are not protected by Cloudflare. We hope that others will follow us in making their implementations of post-quantum cryptography free so that we can create a secure and private Internet without a “quantum” up-charge.  More details about our commitment is here and here.

Working with researchers to better document Internet censorship and shutdowns

Cloudflare commits to working with researchers to share data about Internet shutdowns and selective Internet traffic interference and to make the results of the analysis of this data public and accessible. The Cloudflare Network includes 285 locations in over 100 countries, interconnects with over 11,500 networks globally, and serves a significant portion of global Internet traffic. Cloudflare shares aggregated data on the Internet's patterns, insights, threats and trends with the public through Cloudflare Radar, including providing alerts and data to help organizations like Access Now's KeepItOn coalition, the Freedom Online Coalition, the Internet Society, and Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) monitor Internet censorship and shutdowns around the world. Cloudflare commits to working with research partners to identify signatures associated with connection tampering and failures, which are believed to be caused primarily by active censorship and blocking. Cloudflare is well-positioned to observe and report on these signatures from a global perspective, and will provide access to its findings to support additional tampering detection efforts.

Engaging with civil society on Internet protocols and the development and application of privacy-enhancing technologies

Cloudflare believes that meaningful consultation with civil society is a fundamental part of building an Internet that advances human rights. As Cloudflare works with Internet standards bodies and other Internet providers on the next-generation of privacy-enhancing technologies and protocols, like protocols to encrypt Domain Name Service records and Encrypted Client Hello (ECH) and privacy enhancing technologies like OHTTP, we commit to direct engagement with civil society and human rights experts on standards and technologies that might have implications for human rights.

Cloudflare has long worked with industry partners, stakeholders, and international standards organizations to build a more private, secure, and resilient Internet for everyone. For example, Cloudflare has built privacy technologies into its network infrastructure, helped develop and deploy TLS 1.3 alongside helping lead QUIC  and other Internet protocols, improve transparency around routing and public key infrastructure (PKI), and operating a public DNS resolver that supports encryption protocols. Ensuring civil society and human rights experts are able to contribute and provide feedback as part of those efforts will make certain that future development and application of privacy-enhancing technologies and protocols are consistent with human rights principles and account for human rights impacts.

Our commitments to democratizing post-quantum cryptography, working with researchers on Internet censorship and shutdowns, and engaging with civil society on Internet protocols and the development and application of privacy-preserving technologies will help to secure access to a free, open, and interconnected Internet.

Partnering to make the Summit a success

In the lead-up to the Summit, Cloudflare has been working in partnership with the US Department of State, the National Security Council, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and various private sector and civil society partners to prepare for the Summit. As part of our involvement, we have also contributed to roundtables and discussions with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, GNI, the Design 4 Democracy Coalition, and the Freedom Online Coalition. Cloudflare is also participating in official meetings and side events including at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to the official Summit events, there are a wide range of events organized by civil society which the Accountability Lab has created a website to highlight. Separately, on Monday, March 27 the Global Democracy Coalition convened a Partners Day to organize civil society and other non-governmental events. Many of these events are being held by some of our Galileo partners like the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and the Council of Europe.

Cloudflare is grateful for all of the hard work that our partners in government, civil society, and the private sector have done over the past few months to make this Summit a success. At a time where we are seeing increasing challenges to democracy and the struggle for human rights around the world, maintaining a secure, open, Internet is critical. Cloudflare is proud of our participation in the Summit and in the commitments we are making to help advance human rights. We look forward to continuing our engagement in the Summit partnership to fulfill our mission to help build a better Internet.

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USAHuman RightsPost-QuantumInternet ShutdownProtocolsPrivacyProject Galileo

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