Call for urgency in international protection of Internet

As a key Internet hub and digital gateway to Europe, the Netherlands is heavily dependent on the functioning of the global Internet. The integrity and reliability of the Internet – and all the social and economic processes that we have linked to it – depend on the functioning of a core of Internet protocols and infrastructures which can be seen as a global public good.

Internet in foreign policy

If states intervene in those central protocols and infrastructures out of a national interest, this has an extremely damaging impact on that global public good. And it is happening more and more frequently, based on arguments of national security and economic interests. This could ‘break’ the Internet and undermine confidence in its integrity. We are at a juncture when protecting the Internet as a collective infrastructure demands international attention to prevent it becoming an established norm that states are free to decide whether or not they wish to interfere with the central protocols in order to protect their own interests. For the Netherlands, this means giving high priority to the Internet in foreign policy and the adoption of a robust Dutch stance.

These are among the points argued by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) in its report ‘The public core of the Internet. Towards a foreign Internet policy’ (De publieke kern van het internet. Naar een buitenlands internetbeleid).

Three recommendations

In the report, the Council recommends that the Internet be made a core focus of Dutch foreign policy in its own right. The overarching importance of Internet security demands a diplomatic effort which the WRR breaks down into three recommendations:

  • Promote the establishment of an international standard in which the central protocols of the Internet are designated as a neutral zone, interference in which from the basis of national interests is not permitted.
  • Endeavour to create a clearer distinction and demarcation at national and international level between Internet security, security of the network and national security in relation to the Internet.
  • Broaden the scope of Dutch Internet diplomacy, to take in both new coalitions between states as well as Internet providers, NGOs and the technical community.

About the WRR

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) provides independent advice to the Dutch government from a long-term perspective. Its recommendations go beyond individual sectors and concern issues that may confront society in the future.