China is threatening the future of the internet, UK spy chiefs have warned.
The Western values which helped develop and shape the world wide web are being sabotaged by the Chinese, whose technological advances and speedy implementation are recasting the international cyber network in Beijing’s authoritarian vision, said the deputy director of strategy at GCHQ, the UK government intelligence centre.
“We in the West have been fortunate that a lot of the technology which has driven the internet has been informed by Western liberal values, democratic values, but that is not going to be the picture going forward,” the senior spook, known only as Ann, told the Cheltenham Science Festival on Thursday.
She added: “So we can see that there is a big shift to the East. There is a potential clash of values there.”
Those values are unlike those “we hold to be important in the West,” The Telegraph reported Ann as saying.
Evidence of China’s challenge to the internet’s principles has in recent years seen the erasing of independent news providers and the spread of disinformation.
The CCP spends billions of dollars on cyber information warfare. Tens of thousands of monitors weed out any challenge to Beijing’s rule, and state-sponsored hackers are employed to launch ransomware attacks on servers worldwide, crashing systems and engaging in industrial espionage.
Beijing has also sought to build kudos by competing with Western social media sites.
The ever-popular TikTok is owned by ByteDance which has its headquarters in Beijing, and which is known to have connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
On Nov. 5, 2019, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism that TikTok is a social media platform compromised by the CCP. He warned American parents that a company “compromised by the Chinese Communist Party knows where your children are, knows what they look like, what their voices sound like, what they’re watching, and what they share with each other.” TikTok didn’t appear for the hearing.
Hawley also warned against government use of the site.
Britain’s cyber spy agency deputy chief said collaboration “with our partners is absolutely essential” to prevent the CCP’s values from undermining the internet and Western values.
“This is a moment of reckoning for the West really,” Ann said.
She also called out Russia for waging an online propaganda campaign alongside its military invasion of Ukraine to undermine international support for the Kyiv government.
However, she said the West is now uniting to create international rules and protocols, with 61 countries—including the UK and the United States—recently signing up to a set of digital principles to create a “single global future for the internet,” one based on democratic values, including respecting user privacy, encouraging competition, encouraging openness, encouraging accessibility.