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Brad Smith

President of Microsoft

Toward a Promising Chapter of Multistakeholder Diplomacy in Cyberspace

Thank you for taking the time to engage with this special publication. I hope it has been illuminating and provoked some new thinking about how we might work together to promote peace, security and human rights in our digital world. These are the qualities that must form the foundation of cyberspace if we are to ensure that people everywhere can use technology to achieve more. 

The volume and sophistication of cyberattacks have been on the rise for years now, met by little in terms of international response or mitigation. However, the recent proliferation of harmful attacks and the alarming revelations surrounding state-led and sponsored cyberattacks in particular seem to have firmly fixed international attention on this issue in the way it deserves. Consequently, it is my hope that we may now be at the dawn of a new and promising chapter of diplomacy in cyberspace based on a recognition that international peace and security online will require persistent attention at the highest levels of governments, as well as from other stakeholders.

As with physical spaces, we must accept that cyberspace will continue to be a domain of conflict for as long as it remains a domain of human activity. This does not mean we cannot have stability online, but it will require setting clear rules and promoting accountability for malicious actions. Indeed, we must build out existing expectations for what constitutes responsible behavior in cyberspace — and be as innovative in developing these norms as we are with the technology itself. 

In that spirit of innovation, the authors throughout this publication have provided thoughtful contributions on how to aid this process going forward. It is clear that governments will not solve these complex challenges on their own. These issues require not only multilateral engagement, but the inclusion of necessary multistakeholder perspectives as well. The technology industry that builds and maintains the very fabric of the digital domain simply must be included in conversations on how best to secure it. Similarly, as cyberspace continues to evolve and grow as a presence in all of our lives, civil society organizations will need to serve as watchdogs for defending human rights and freedoms in this rapidly transforming domain. A successful multistakeholder model for peace and security online will require both governments and nongovernmental organizations, including the private sector, to think more expansively about their roles and responsibilities. This might mean building new capacities and reconsidering existing approaches. If nothing else, I hope this publication has provided a window into what a path toward such a dialogue might look like. ­­

Brad Smith is president of Microsoft. In this role, he leads a team of more than 1,500 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals located in 54 countries and operating in more than 120 nations. He plays a key role in spearheading the company’s work on critical issues involving the intersection of technology and society, including cybersecurity, privacy, artificial intelligence, environmental sustainability, human rights, immigration and philanthropy. In his recent bestselling book, coauthored with Microsoft’s Carol Ann Browne, “Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age,” Smith urges the tech sector to assume more responsibility and calls for governments to move faster to address the challenges that new technologies are creating. The New York Times has called Smith “a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large” and The Australian Financial Review has described him as “one of the technology industry’s most respected figures.” He has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress and other governments on these key policy issues.

Smith joined Microsoft in 1993, first spending three years in Paris leading the legal and corporate affairs team in Europe. In 2002, he was named Microsoft’s general counsel and spent the following decade leading work to resolve the company’s antitrust controversies with governments around the world and companies across the tech sector. Over the past decade, Smith has spearheaded the company’s work to advance privacy protection for Microsoft customers and the rights of DREAMers and other immigrants, including bringing multiple lawsuits against the U.S. government on these issues.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Smith was an associate and then partner at the law firm of Covington and Burling, where he is still remembered as the first attorney in the long history of the firm to insist (in 1986) on having a personal computer on his desk as a condition for accepting a job offer. In addition to his work at Microsoft, Smith is active in several civic organizations and in the broader technology industry. He has served on the Netflix board of directors since 2015 and chairs the board of directors of both Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program.

Smith grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Green Bay was the big city next door. He attended Princeton University, where he met his wife, Kathy. He earned his J.D. from Columbia University Law School and studied international law and economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.

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