The G7 countries have agreed a deal for global tech regulation which will curb the power of ‘Big Tech’ and boost online safety worldwide. 

Leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and EU signed a declaration containing a series of shared principles on how to tackle the global challenge of online safety, including that online firms should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritise the protection of children. 

The principles say that any steps to improve online safety must support the values of open and democratic societies and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

In a sign of stronger cooperation to address concerns over the market power of ‘Big Tech’ platforms, international regulators and policymakers will meet with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority in the autumn to discuss long term coordination and enforcement. 

The joint ministerial declaration was signed at a virtual meeting hosted by UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden to fire the starting gun on this year’s G7 Summit.  

The agreements are part of the first of seven ministerial declarations due to be signed this year. 

Other measures include plans to turbocharge exports by digitising the cumbersome and centuries-old paper-based system for key international trade transactions and improving the free flow of data.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a coalition of the world’s leading democracies and technological powers, we want to forge a compelling vision of how tech should support and enhance open and democratic societies in the digital age. 

Together we have agreed a number of priorities in areas ranging from internet safety to digital competition to make sure the digital revolution is a democratic one that enhances global prosperity for all. 

The G7 has committed to protecting human rights online and agreed that tech companies have a corporate responsibility for their users’ safety. This means they should have systems and processes in place to reduce illegal and harmful activity and prioritise the protection of children.  

They have agreed to develop a framework for the use of electronic transferable records, to address legal barriers and coordinate domestic reforms so companies can use digital solutions for the shipment of goods and trade finance – replacing slow and outdated paper transactions.

There is also a consensus that a more joined-up approach to regulation and promoting competition in digital markets is needed to better serve consumers and businesses. Regulators have agreed to meet in the autumn to discuss these issues further. 

Committing to cooperation to seize the opportunities and benefits of data free flow with trust for people, businesses and economies, the G7 will build evidence on the impacts of data localisation, promote regulatory cooperation and accelerate the development of approaches for data sharing across transport, science and research, education and natural disaster mitigation. 

Importantly, they have agreed to collaborate on how democratic governments and stakeholders can support the development of digital technical standards for online tools, services and protocols – guiding the development of a free, open and secure internet.