Monday, October 27, 2008

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Vow to Defend Human Rights Online

A coalition of companies in the information and communications industries, including Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft , launched a Global Network Initiative whose mission is to protect and advance the human rights of freedom of expression and privacy. The Initiative is being launched in the 60th Anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to the three leading Internet companies, the initiative is backed by the United Nations, leading human rights organizations (NGOs), as well as several distinguished academic institutions.


Founding members of the coalition said today's online resources require significant new commitments from across the industry, including: establishing greater transparency with users; assessing human rights risk; requesting the legal rationale for government actions and policies; training employees; challenging human rights violations; and providing whistle-blowing mechanisms through which violations of the Principles can be reported.


The Global Network Initiative outlined a set of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. In part, these include:

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of opinion and expression is a human right and guarantor of human dignity. The right to freedom of opinion and expression includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


Freedom of opinion and expression supports an informed citizenry and is vital to ensuring public and private sector accountability. Broad public access to information and the freedom to create and communicate ideas are critical to the advancement of knowledge, economic opportunity and human potential.


The right to freedom of expression should not be restricted by governments, except in narrowly defined circumstances based on internationally recognized laws or standards. These restrictions should be consistent with international human rights laws and standards, the rule of law and be necessary and proportionate for the relevant purpose.


Participating companies will respect and protect the freedom of expression of their users by seeking to avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression, including restrictions on the information available to users and the opportunities for users to create and communicate ideas and information, regardless of frontiers or media of communication.


Participating companies will respect and protect the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands, laws and regulations to suppress freedom of expression, remove content or otherwise limit access to information and ideas in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.


Privacy


Privacy is a human right and guarantor of human dignity. Privacy is important to maintaining personal security, protecting identity and promoting freedom of expression in the digital age.


Everyone should be free from illegal or arbitrary interference with the right to privacy and should have the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.


The right to privacy should not be restricted by governments, except in narrowly defined circumstances based on internationally recognized laws and standards. These restrictions should be consistent with international human rights laws and standards, the rule of law and be necessary and proportionate for the relevant purpose.


Participating companies will employ protections with respect to personal information in all countries where they operate in order to protect the privacy rights of users.


Participating companies will respect and protect the privacy rights of users when confronted with government demands, laws or regulations that compromise privacy in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.


More information is online.
http://www.globalnetworkinitiative.org

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