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In 2004, the European Union proposed designating 5 February as Safer Internet Day to raise awareness about the importance of online security, especially among children and adolescents. Today it is celebrated in over 100 countries, with millions of people sharing initiatives, concerns and recommendations for making the internet safer. But what does this mean? What are we talking about when we talk about a safer internet?

Valeria Betancourt, director of APC’s Communications and Information Policy Programme, offers these six considerations from an internet governance perspective:

More human rights, more security

The dominant narrative pits human rights against security, but security and human rights are synergistic, interrelated, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Overlooking those connections is resulting in abuses and in an exacerbated securitisation of the internet. It is crucial to move beyond this erroneous and counterproductive framing to ensure that security-related public policy and practice do not violate privacy and other human rights.

It is not only a matter of technology

We need to overcome the perception that security is a purely technological issue, and challenge approaches that reinforce the status quo and benefit political and private business interests to the detriment of the security and other rights of individuals.

Responsibility and accountability

We need to hold governments responsible for the investments they make in technology that restricts and violates people’s rights, in contravention of international human rights law, instead of contributing to stability, peace and development.

There is no difference between security and cybersecurity

The rights that people have offline must also be respected in digital spaces. This means that there is no difference between security and cybersecurity. When we talk about security, we need to ask: security for who?

A feminist internet

A safer internet is also a feminist internet. Women must fight back against the use of our data by states and corporations to manipulate online behaviour, to police our voices and expression, our bodies and identities, and therefore our activism.

A global resource

It is important not to forget that the internet is a global resource that should be governed in the public interest. Building trust, confidence and security online can not happen without truly multistakeholder dialogue, collaboration and cooperation.

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Valeria Betancourt has led APC's Communications and Information Policy Programme (CIPP) since 2010. She is a longtime activist in the field of human rights and the internet, with a special focus on the areas of information and communication technologies for development, access to the internet, human rights in the online sphere, and internet governance in the context of developing countries and the global South. She lives in Ecuador. 
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