A New UN Cybercrime Treaty? The Way Forward for Supporters of an Open, Free and Secure Internet

Last month, governments gathered at the United Nations to vote on a Russian-led resolution on cybercrime that could result in irreversible consequences for how countries deal with and cooperate in cybercrime investigations. While the resolution was strongly opposed by a number of major Western powers and human rights groups, it managed to pass in a final vote on December 27, 2019. With this passage, supporters of an open, free, and secure model of the internet—championed for years by the United States, Europe, and other like-minded states—should now change their global engagement strategy on cybercrime and develop more inclusive approaches and clearer narratives to bring more countries to their side.

When it comes to cybercrime, there have always been wide divisions in views on how it should be addressed and investigated. These divisions have largely mirrored fights on cyber norms in the United Nations that pit those who have historically supported an open, free, and secure internet against countries like Russia and China who advance a more authoritarian model with expanded state control. During last year’s General Assembly, a cybercrime resolution pushed by Russia to require the UN Secretary-General to collect countries’ views about cybercrime passed and successfully placed discussions of a possible cybercrime treaty on the United Nations’ agenda.

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