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Democratic Principles

Australia will: advocate for cyberspace and critical technologies to uphold and protect democratic principles and processes

Australia will do this by:

Action 4. Supporting applications of cyberspace and critical technologies that uphold and protect democratic principles and processes
Action 5. Opposing the use of cyberspace and critical technologies to interfere, undermine or otherwise weaken democratic principles and processes

All Australian Government policies must give expression to, and be shaped by, Australian community values. While we do not seek to impose our values on others, we are determined to protect liberal institutions and advocate for universal values, human rights and democratic principles and processes. Societies that observe these values will be fairer and more stable. Their economies will benefit as individual creativity is encouraged and innovation rewarded.

Our democracy is defined by the values of the rule of law, freedom of elections and being elected; freedom of assembly and political participation; freedom of expression, religion or belief; and other human rights.

The rule of law, freedom, an independent media, an impartial and independent judicial system and a market economy constitute the fabric of Australian democracy. They support our national strength and high-income economy, providing an enduring basis for social and economic progress. We are committed to protecting our democracy and to using the advantages it bestows on our country to deliver opportunity and security for all Australians.

Cyberspace and critical technologies can strengthen democracy

Cyberspace and critical technologies offer new and enriched ways for governments and people all over the world to uphold democratic principles and actively engage in democratic processes. They provide new ways to share political information online, engage in political movements and campaigns, and to fulfil human rights and freedoms of political participation, opinion and expression. A free and open media is vital to realising these benefits, and to strong and robust democratic processes and governance.

Cyberspace and critical technologies can enhance engagement in democratic processes and promote democratic principles by opening new avenues for governments and political parties to more meaningfully connect with their citizens. This has immense potential for citizens and governments all over the world to build more inclusive, engaged and representative societies.

Australia will support and encourage the use of cyberspace and critical technologies to strengthen and protect democratic principles, processes and other associated freedoms around the world. We will continue to promote this in our bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement and capacity building activities. Australia will also engage with industry and civil society to strengthen mutual understanding of how cyberspace and critical technology can strengthen and reinforce democratic principles and processes.

Cyberspace and critical technologies can undermine and weaken democracy

Australia recognises that cyberspace and critical technologies can also pose significant challenges to democracy. By design, some technologies strengthen censorship, enabling oppression and mass surveillance. The application of technologies in these ways can be used to suppress populations, infringe on political and social rights and deny participation in legitimate political processes.

Democratic societies are also increasingly vulnerable to interference and manipulation by malicious actors. Tolerance, respect, negotiation and social cohesion comprise the basic features of a functioning democracy. Trust is foundational to these features, and malicious actors are increasingly targeting social trust in democratic processes and institutions. Malicious actors may take advantage of and exploit the strengths of democracies, such as a free and open media, to deliberately interfere with democratic processes and undermine trust in pursuit of their geopolitical interests. This may include disrupting electoral processes, targeting voter information, political parties, voting technologies and the reporting of results through the use of cyber or critical technology-enabled means. In some circumstances, this may amount to a breach of international law.

The use of cyberspace and critical technology to undermine, disrupt or distort democratic principles and processes is of great concern to Australia, as it is to all other liberal democracies around the world. Australia will oppose actions that interfere, weaken or erode trust in democratic institutions or processes. This includes cyber and critical technology-enabled foreign interference. Australia will continue our international engagement with regional partners to enhance their resilience, and build support for stronger international action against cyber and critical technology-enabled foreign interference in democratic processes and institutions. This will complement other actions that Australia will take to counter digital disinformation (see Disinformation and Misinformation), and promote and protect human rights (see Human Rights).

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