- News Releases
“The era of the global internet is over,” declares a new Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored Independent Task Force report. “A free, global, and open internet was a worthy aspiration that helped guide U.S. policymakers for the internet’s first thirty years. The internet as it exists today, however, demands a reconsideration of U.S. cyber and foreign policies to confront these new realities,” asserts the Task Force.
“The United States needs a new strategy that responds to what is now a fragmented and dangerous internet. The Task Force believes it is time for a new foreign policy for cyberspace,” says the consensus report, Confronting Reality in Cyberspace: Foreign Policy for a Fragmented Internet.
CFR Board members Nathaniel Fick and Jami Miscik serve as co-chairs, CFR Senior Fellow Adam Segal is the director, and CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Gordon M. Goldstein is the deputy director. The Task Force includes twenty-five distinguished members from both sides of the political aisle who represent a variety of areas of expertise.
The global internet is, in large part, a creation of the United States. “U.S. strategic, economic, political, and foreign policy interests were served by the global, open internet. Washington long believed that its vision of the internet would ultimately prevail and that other countries would be forced to adjust to or miss out on the benefits of a global and open internet,” the Task Force explains.
However, “the United States now confronts a starkly different reality. The utopian vision of an open, reliable, and secure global network has not been achieved and is unlikely ever to be realized. Today, the internet is less free, more fragmented, and less secure,” warns the Task Force.
Dangers abound. Countries around the world—especially U.S. adversaries such as Russia and China—now exert a greater degree of control over the internet and countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea conduct widespread espionage campaigns and increasingly disruptive attacks. Criminal hacking groups mount attacks that cost billions of dollars and disrupt the lives of thousands annually. Malicious actors have exploited social media platforms to spread disinformation and misinformation.
“U.S. policies promoting an open, global internet have failed, and Washington will be unable to stop or reverse the trend toward fragmentation,” the report asserts.
The Task Force proposes three pillars for a foreign policy that would guide Washington’s adaptation to today’s more dangerous and complex cyber realm:
- “Washington should confront reality and consolidate a coalition of allies and friends around a vision of the internet that preserves—to the greatest degree possible—a trusted, protected international communication platform.”
- “The United States should balance more targeted diplomatic and economic pressure on adversaries [such as Russia, China, or Iran], as well as more disruptive cyber operations, with clear statements about self-imposed restraint on specific types of targets agreed to among U.S. allies.”
- “The United States needs to put its own proverbial house in order. That requirement calls for Washington to link more cohesively its policy for digital competition with the broader enterprise of national security strategy.”
“It is time for a more realistic U.S. cyber policy that consolidates a coalition of allies and friends around the principle of the trusted and secure flow of data, matches more assertive efforts to disrupt cyber operations with clear statements about self-imposed restraint, and prioritizes digital competition in national security strategies,” the Task Force concludes.
To read the report, visit www.cfr.org/cyberspace.
For more information, please contact the Global Communications and Media Relations team at 212.434.9888 or [email protected].