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16 Jul 2014

Interview with Michael Samway, founder of Yahoo!'s business & human rights programme

"The Internet, Human Rights, and the Private Sector: An Interview with Michael A. Samway", Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Dec 2013

Michael A. Samway is a former Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Yahoo! Inc., where he founded the company’s Business & Human Rights Program.

Companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others have to anticipate the most likely scenarios where local law or practice may conflict with international norms, and where companies may be required by host governments to take steps that interfere with citizens’ rights to free expression and privacy...If more companies begin to build more integrated and durable systems for anticipating and addressing human rights issues, then we would begin to see more tangible gains for ICT users and be able to declare some small successes for protecting human rights...Human rights impact assessments are particularly useful when entering new markets, launching new products, acquiring companies, or establishing partnerships...The change brought about by globalization, and the Internet in particular, demands a new model for ensuring that companies do not grow complicit in government activities inconsistent with citizens’ internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and privacy...In addition to the moral incentives and the growing consensus on global obligations–in particular, as a result of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights–companies are recognizing that they can gain a competitive advantage by being thoughtful and committed in their beliefs and actions in this field...Wise decision-making on human rights in the ICT sector will also help companies limit financial exposure associated with legal fees and settlements, crisis consultants, negative publicity, Congressional hearings and regulation, decreased employee morale, share price vulnerability, and other tangible and intangible costs of becoming embroiled in controversy around human rights issues. [Also refers to AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Evoca, Procera, Snapchat, Websense, What­sApp]