Commentary: Global Network Initiative has contributed to improvements in ICT companies' respect for human rights over the past 10 years

Author: Michael Samway, Medium, Published on: 30 October 2018

"GNI: A Journey of Trust and Making Common Cause" 16 October 2018

Widespread online censorship and surveillance, especially across markets with weak rule of law, regularly denies citizens their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and privacy ... [t]he issue of corporate complicity in a government’s violations of its own citizens’ rights [is] ultimately a human issue, with people’s security, safety, and even their lives at stake. After two-plus years of intensive negotiation...[with] representatives from technology companies, civil society, socially responsible investors, and academia...the Global Network Initiative (GNI) launched in October of 2008. GNI’s work has led directly to tangible, if quiet, changes and improvements in company policies. This includes the use of human rights impact assessments to evaluate and then mitigate risk, transparency reporting on content takedowns and government demands for user data, clear guidelines on information disclosure to law enforcement authorities [and] employee training on digital rights risks and responses. [However,] [q]uestions surrounding fake news, Internet shutdowns, hate speech, and election interference ...  leave GNI members...grappling with the dangerous implications while searching for causes, methods used, and ultimately for lasting solutions... For GNI, the question is what does responsible company decision making look like in light of this dangerously shifting online landscape?... The need for a global organization with GNI’s unique multi-stakeholder structure focused on protecting and advancing freedom of expression and privacy online is at its greatest point in the history of the ICT sector.

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