A member of the European Union's Parliament described the rising tide of nationalism in the United States and Europe as antithetical to cybersecurity and the free internet at a conference featuring a number of world cybersecurity policy leaders Monday at Georgetown University.
MEP Marietje Schaake (Netherlands) said that closing borders to try to regain control over diminishing power could have dire consequence on the online landscape.
At a meeting of global economic leaders she had attended, she said, the "Russian and Iranian foreign ministers couldn't help but celebrate the post-Western world order."
Russia and Iran are both known as countries with particularly active weaponized cybersecurity programs.
Georgetown's seventh annual International Conference on Cyber Engagement also featured special assistant to the president on cybersecurity issues Robert Joyce, and will feature appearances by Trump terrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka and a bevy of other world leaders.
As global interconnectedness expands, Schaake said, "the reality is that despite key debates and fierce competitions in election campaigns about leadership and vision politicians and governments everywhere with jurisdiction in a limited geographical area are seeing their power and influence diminish."
Though the tendency for once mightier nations might be to "double down [on protectionism] to try to regain a sense of control," Schaake said leaders would have to grapple with a world where they can neither cease the progress of technology nor regulate issues that need international cooperation.
"A tendency toward nationalism and protectionism is a backlash that will not make it easier to meet the global challenges of our time — protecting the environment, fighting terrorism or navigating digitization," she said, later adding that "hyperconnectivity and nationalism are difficult if not impossible to coexist. The open internet simply stops to flourish when borders and minds are closed."
Europe, like the United States, has seen a surge in right-wing, nationalist political sentiment. That has included once-unthinkable levels of support for nationalist candidates in France and Schaake's home country of the Netherlands as well as Britain's departure from the European Union.
But, she said, cybersecurity and the open internet pose problems that require coordination between disparate nations and even private companies, which she believes will continue to be asked to play bigger roles in international diplomacy.
"Global protests we've seen against trade deals may turn against tech companies," she speculated, later adding that companies like Google, with its unofficial motto "Do no evil," might need to begin acting as stewards of moral authority in dealings with oppressive regimes asking for censorship or worse.
"Mottos like 'Do no harm' do not mean much at all without following by the universal declaration of human rights," Schaake said.