World leaders back French-led bid to bolster cybersecurity

US Vice President Kamala Harris highlights online extremist threat

US Vice President Kamala Harris said her previous experience as a prosecutor had showed her the dangers of the internet. AFP
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The EU and US have backed a France-led call to make the internet more secure, and protect against extremism threats and the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Addressing the Paris Peace Forum, US Vice President Kamala Harris said the digital world clearly could be used for good. But citing her previous experience as a prosecutor, she highlighted how the internet was also open for abuse.

“I grew up in California, with Silicon Valley literally in my backyard, and I watched as we all did, the rapid shift from analogue to digital technology,” said Ms Harris, who is on a four-day visit to the French capital.

“It is undeniable technology has the power to unlock opportunity for the people of the world,” she added, pointing to climate action and mobile banking among others. "But just as technology has created more opportunities, it has also created more risks and threats.

“I have seen first-hand how women and children have been exploited online and privacy has been compromised,” Ms Harris said, referring to her time in elected office and previous legal experience. ... I have seen first-hand how hate and violent extremism is stoked online."

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, launched in 2018, sought to improve cybersecurity and protect against threats.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also leading efforts to better protect children from harmful content.

“The Biden Harris administration is committed to working to advance security in cyberspace, to promote stability in cyberspace and to ensure shared prosperity,” Ms Harris said.

The US, she said, sought “to ensure that technology helps not harms the people of our world”.

Referring to the Paris Call, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said its intention had “always been to reclaim the internet as a force for good”.

“Throughout the pandemic, indeed the internet has been a lifeline for millions of companies, and the only connection to our loved ones for so many of us," she said.

"Yet cyberspace has also become a more dangerous place with rising threats against our critical infrastructure, our democratic processes and even our personal health and safety, including our children's.”

While the internet has been an invaluable tool for many to stay in contact during the Covid-19 pandemic, criminals have also thrived as more spend time online.

Since the Christchurch mosque massacre in 2019, world leaders and technology companies have also sought to clamp down on online terrorist content.

Updated: November 11, 2021, 9:22 PM