Freedom House Policy Recommendations
Strengthening Democracy Abroad
Democracies should work to support their core principles at home and around the world. Neglecting to tie democratic principles to foreign policy leaves democracies vulnerable to interference from authoritarian regimes.
The future of privacy, free expression, and democratic governance rests on the decisions we make today. Explore Freedom House's recommendations on internet freedom, election integrity, and preventing abusive social media surveillance.
Democratic Governance in Europe and Eurasia
To counter the democratic breakdown recorded by the Nations in Transit report, democracies, especially the United States and European Union member states, should work to protect democratic values and human rights.
Democracy in Pandemic
Freedom House calls on governments, civil society organizations, and donors to protect political rights and civil liberties during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
Combatting Corruption & Kleptocracy
The rise of modern authoritarianism has been accompanied by an expansion in corruption and kleptocracy, posing a significant threat to democracy around the world.
China's Global Influence
The Chinese government’s efforts to tighten control at home and expand authoritarian tactics abroad present a threat to global democracy.
A growing disregard for the conditions that form the foundations of democracy—including respect for the rights of minorities and migrants, space for critical dissent, and commitment to the rule of law—threatens to destabilize the democratic order. At the same time, prioritizing a narrow support base at the expense of ensuring fundamental freedoms for all, and neglecting to tie democratic principles to foreign policy, leaves democracies vulnerable to interference from authoritarian regimes, which have increased repression at home and abroad.
Strengthen and Protect Core Values
Respect, protect, and fulfill human rights at home. Attacks by elected leaders on democratic institutions—including the press, an independent judiciary, and anti-corruption agencies—and on the rights of minorities and migrants undermine faith in democracy around the world. Democratic leaders should demonstrate respect for fundamental norms at home by adhering to domestic legislation in line with international human rights laws and standards, and refraining from rhetoric that undermines these standards.
Strengthen public support for democratic principles by investing in civic education. To protect freedom domestically and build support for a foreign policy that protects democratic rights and values abroad, it is essential to foster a stronger public understanding of democratic principles, especially among young people. In the United States, new legislation could require each state to develop basic content and benchmarks of achievement for civic education, including instruction on the fundamental tenets of US democracy. In the absence of new legislation, the US Department of Education should, to the extent possible, make funding available to states for civic education that focuses on democratic principles.
Restrict the export of sophisticated surveillance tools to unfree countries, and require businesses exporting dual-use technologies to report on the human rights impact of those products. Technologies such as facial-recognition surveillance, social media monitoring, and targeted interception or collection of data equip authoritarian governments with new and robust power to violate fundamental rights. The sale of such technologies—including those that use machine learning, natural-language processing, and deep learning—should be restricted for countries rated Partly Free or Not Free by any Freedom House publication. Businesses exporting dual-use technologies (those with both civilian and military purposes) should be required to report annually on the impact of their exports, including by disclosing the countries to which they have exported such technologies, potential human rights concerns in those countries, a summary of pre-export due diligence undertaken to ensure that the products are not misused, any human rights violations that have occurred as a result of the use or potential use of their technologies, and any efforts undertaken to mitigate the harm done and prevent further abuse
Prevent election interference. Efforts should include protecting elections from cyberattacks through the use of paper ballots and election audits, and improving transparency and oversight of online political advertisements. In the United States, Congress should pass and the president should sign the Honest Ads Act (S. 1356/H.R. 2592), which would modernize existing laws by applying disclosure requirements to online political advertising.
Strengthen laws that guard against foreign influence over government officials. Legislative proposals requiring greater transparency about officials’ personal finances and campaign donations, more rigorous standards for the disclosure of conflicts of interest, and the establishment of a clear code of conduct for engagement with foreign officials can help insulate governments from foreign attempts to subvert democratic institutions. In the United States, this could include passing legislation to enforce the principles of the constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, closing loopholes in rules on reporting foreign influence, and modernizing financial disclosure requirements for elected officials.
Prevent corrupt foreign officials from laundering stolen assets through democracies. Corrupt actors steal more than $3 trillion annually from their home countries, the effects of which undermine institutions critical to democracy and harm economic growth in these countries. Stolen funds are routinely funneled through international financial markets, laundered via seemingly legitimate purchases in democratic nations. These practices pose a risk to the reputations of companies unwittingly involved and to financial markets overall. Democracies should strengthen transparency laws to ensure that accurate identifying information about purchasers and their funding sources is available. Governments should ensure robust enforcement of laws and investigate and prosecute violators when necessary. In the United States, lawmakers should advance proposed measures like the Corporate Transparency Act (H.R. 2513) and the similar ILLICIT CASH Act (S. 2563), which would prohibit corrupt actors from hiding behind shell corporations by requiring the disclosure of true, beneficial owners.
Make the fight against kleptocracy and international corruption a key priority. In the United States, the proposed CROOK Act (H.R. 3843) would establish an action fund that would offer financial assistance to foreign countries during historic windows of opportunity for anticorruption reforms. Another draft law, the Combating Global Corruption Act (S. 1309) would require the US government to assess corruption around the world and produce a tiered list of countries. US foreign assistance directed at the lowest-tiered countries would require specific risk assessments and anticorruption mechanisms, such as provisions to recover funds that are misused.
Increase transparency requirements for foreign state-owned propaganda outlets operating in democratic states. Outlets like Russia’s RT and China’s CGTN spread government-approved narratives without clearly disclosing that they are government financed. Measures to improve transparency could include reporting requirements for media outlets’ spending on paid advertorials (advertisements designed to resemble an independent, objective news article), ownership structures, and other economic ties to repressive state actors.
Require social media companies to report foreign efforts to spread online disinformation and propaganda. Social media companies should be required to report regularly to target governments on efforts by foreign governments and nonstate actors to manipulate public opinion and undercut democratic values by spreading disinformation and propaganda on their platforms. In the United States, the government should assess which entities would be the most appropriate to receive these reports, since this information is of interest across jurisdictions, including to intelligence agencies, Congress, the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice. The US government should carefully decide on the types and sizes of social media companies required to comply, the data they must submit, and appropriate penalties for noncompliance. The entity receiving the information should report findings regularly to the public and make the data publicly available, while ensuring the protection of users’ privacy.
Address the use of bots on social media. Bots (automated accounts pretending to be real people) can be used to distort the online media environment by rapidly spreading false information, fomenting discord, and drowning out independent reporting and factual information. Democracies should address the use of bots in social media manipulation. In the United States, the proposed Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act (S. 2125) would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to require the conspicuous and public disclosure of bots intended to replicate human activity.
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