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In Paris, governments and tech giants commit to securing cyberspace

French President Emmanuel Macron announces an online call to arms, which has already been signed by Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the Internet Governance Forum on Monday.
Ludovic Marin / AFP / Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron is appealing to policymakers and the tech industry to work together to secure the internet, protect democracy, copyright and free speech, and fight online scourges like fake news and terrorist recruitment.

During a speech at the Internet Governance Forum on Monday in Paris, he issued a declaration dubbed the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. It's designed to make the internet secure and trustworthy. It was drawn up by the French government based on discussions at the Internet Governance Forum and the Paris Peace Forum, which is also underway in the French capital this week. 

Ahead of the announcement, Macron secured the support of governments, civil organizations and tech companies, which have signed up to work together and honor the commitments in the years ahead.

Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Samsung are among the long list of tech companies that signed the declaration. Governments across the world, including the UK, Canada, Ireland and Germany, have signed it as well. The US isn't among them. 

Launching the initiative helps Macron reinforce France's reputation as a leader for bringing parties together to discuss the governance and regulation of the internet. The Paris Peace Forum follows a high-level tech conference earlier this year, also held in Paris, and attended by many Silicon Valley CEOs, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. The country is keen to show it's at the forefront of the conversation about technology and was also the first national government to sign Tim Berners-Lee's Contract for the Web, announced last Monday at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Among Macron's announcements on Monday was a partnership with Facebook, which he described as "unprecedented." In early 2019, Facebook will host a delegation of French regulators. They will work together to come up with concrete proposals for fighting a hate speech, he said.

Microsoft President Brad Smith praised France's initiative but added that it isn't solely the responsibility of governments to keep the peace in cyberspace. 

"The French government has worked to lay the foundation for the steps the world's governments and other stakeholders need to take," Smith said Monday in a Financial Times op-ed. "We should all hope that the other participants in Paris will support efforts to protect citizens and civilian infrastructure from systemic or indiscriminate cyber attacks"

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