US tech companies back Paris cyber agreement opposed by Trump administration

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Prominent U.S. technology companies are backing an international cyber agreement that would limit the use of certain cyber weapons, even after the Trump administration declined to sign onto the non-binding declaration this week.

The United States was one of just several Western countries that chose not to sign the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace,” which French President Emmanuel Macron released on Monday during the Paris Peace Forum.

Despite the Trump administration withholding its support, U.S. companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google as well as over 100 other companies joined  51 countries in signing onto the Paris Call.

The agreement includes cyber principles that aim to limit offensive and defensive cyber weapons, including protecting civilians from cyberattacks, curbing hate speech, and deterring election interference by other foreign nations.

“Cyberattacks are being used in new ways to threaten democratic societies, and democratic societies need to respond,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post. “The Paris Call represents a watershed moment, bringing together stakeholders from around the globe to protect our electoral processes, not just governments, but the leading institutions that collectively represent the fabric of the world’s democracies.” 

{mosads}Nicklas Lundblad, a Google vice president, echoed the support.

“Strong security is the cornerstone of everything we do at Google. We support the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, because as security threats evolve, continuous collaboration with the industry and with governments is the best way to protect users and help create a more secure Internet for everyone,” he said in a statement.

Other organizations like Swiss Re, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Cisco also embraced the agreement.

Besides the United States, Australia, Turkey, and Israel did not immediately sign on to the agreement.

The deal aims to end “malicious cyber activities in peacetime” by establishing international norms.

“The internet is a space currently managed by a technical community of private players. But it’s not governed. So now that half of humanity is online, we need to find new ways to organize the internet,” an official from Macron’s office told Reuters, emphasizing the emergence of new threats.

The Trump administration may not have signed the agreement because it does not want to restrict its ability to carry out cyber activities in the future, including espionage and cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

The U.S. government is believed to be have worked with Israel to carry out the Stuxnet cyberattack, in which a highly sophisticated computer worm altered the spin rates and pressures of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, making the system spin out of control in 2007. 

A Times source, who declined to say why the U.S. did not join the agreement, told the newspaper that the U.S. could possible sign the principles later on.
Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea reportedly did not participate in the process because Macron’s cyber agreement was aimed at democracies ‚ not the countries that are usually accused of being behind such state-sponsored cyberattacks.
The support from Microsoft and Google also signals that U.S. companies are becoming more active in global debates that could shape cyber norms moving forward.

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