Microsoft is proud to support the Copenhagen Pledge on Tech for Democracy, an initiative led by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aligning efforts of governments and organizations around the world in their commitment to defending human rights and democracy in cyberspace. Digital technology has the incredible potential to improve lives across the globe, economically and socially. More than that, when developed and used responsibly, it can support democratic institutions, increase transparency and accountability in governance as well as protect and promote human rights. But it is increasingly clear that this potential is not guaranteed; instead, it is something we must actively advance together.
Unfortunately, malicious actors, state and non-state alike, can use this same technology for disruption and destruction, and as a tool for targeting and silencing political opposition, human rights activists or to drive influence operations abroad. The unlawful invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine have put this potential for abuse on full display. Here, technology is being employed to malicious ends as part of the first large-scale hybrid war, with kinetic operations taking place alongside cyberattacks against both government and critical civilian infrastructure, accompanied by influence operations targeting the Ukrainian people and their allies around the world.
These emerging threats require increased and comprehensive investments in cybersecurity. They also require innovation in diplomacy and the development of new forums and spaces of engagement across stakeholder groups, both domestically and at international levels.
This is why Microsoft has joined more than 110 other organizations in signing on to the Copenhagen Pledge on Tech for Democracy. Through this ambitious initiative, Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is bringing together stakeholders across civil society, industry and government to drive action that defends human rights and democracy online. This is essential work to protect and translate the values and freedoms we have come to expect in the physical world over to the ever-growing digital domain.
The Copenhagen Pledge acknowledges that we can only do this together as a community. By signing the pledge, supporters are committed to join in advancing this work via the Tech for Democracy Action Coalitions. Microsoft is excited to be engaging in two of these coalitions: one on information integrity in elections; the other on how we can use technology to better support the participation of civil society at the international level.
Collaborative frameworks like the Copenhagen Pledge are critical as they allow us to compare notes across the different sectoral siloes, create opportunities to learn from each other and provide a forum for action to help us reconcile the dual-use nature of digital technology. As a sector, the tech industry has a responsibility to design technology with human rights and democracy in mind. But we also need strong international governing systems and structures to ensure technology is used responsibly, which requires innovation in diplomacy.
Microsoft’s commitment to healthy democracy
One of the essential components of a healthy democratic society is a trustworthy information environment. For the past several years, Microsoft has been investing in transformational new technologies to secure voting and protect democratic processes through our Democracy Forward program. As part of the Copenhagen Pledge Action Coalition on information integrity in elections, we are launching a global media literacy campaign with the intent to encourage readers to be more critical consumers of information online. We are also partnering with the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) on a project to strengthen global investigative journalism, specifically when it relates to elections.
Furthermore, we are investing heavily in boosting our online threat intelligence capabilities with the newly formed Digital Threat Analysis Center (DTAC). This highly skilled team investigates and researches cyber influence campaigns specifically, which we as a company are committed to reporting on, if and when that research identifies such operations targeting elections.
Through the Tech for Democracy Action Coalitions, we are also excited to be exploring new ways to leverage technology to create more inclusive dialogues that support the participation of those in civil society and across the digital divide. These actions build on our previous efforts that allow for meaningful inclusion of industry and civil society in conversations on cybersecurity at the United Nations and beyond.
International efforts working in concert for stronger democracies
The partnership and vision set out by the Copenhagen Pledge is both timely and urgent. It fills an especially action-oriented role alongside other international initiatives intended to promote security and defend democracy in this age of digital transformation, including:
- The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, established in 2018, has laid a strong foundation for what multistakeholder cooperation can look like as well as shaping the discussion around international cybersecurity and stakeholder responsibilities.
- Last year, the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy has galvanized those who care about protecting democracies in a celebration of democratic values, kickstarting a series of workstreams that will come to fruition in the coming year.
These initiatives each play a necessary new role in an evolving international system that needs a shared commitment to shared values across the world. Each initiative has the potential to strengthen and reinforce one another: cybersecurity insights and learning emerging from the Paris Call informing the efforts of the Copenhagen Pledge Action Coalitions, and the Summit for Democracy serving as a platform to take stock of progress and evaluate impact related to how technology is impacting democracy around the world.
Sign the Copenhagen Pledge
Microsoft is proud to support the Copenhagen Pledge, and we will continue to lend our voice to efforts that promote the responsible use of technology. We encourage others to join us and sign the pledge as we all have a responsibility to develop, use and promote technology that strengthens democracy and human rights online.
Join us virtually at the United Nations General Assembly Side Event: Tech for Democracy – Problems, Progress and the Copenhagen Pledge on September 22, 12:00-2:30 p.m. EST.