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Resources

GNI' publications and statements on issues of privacy, freedom of expression, and human rights are sorted by topic and can be found on our Issues page. For the latest from GNI, see News

GNI Provides Input to UN Special Rapporteur’s Study on Telcos and the Internet Access Sector

Date: 
Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:38

In last years’ report to the UN Human Rights Commission, Professor David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, concluded that states pressure on telecommunications companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict freedom of opinion and expression “requires further documentation and scrutiny.”  

In our input to David Kaye’s follow-up study, we demonstrate that the GNI Principles and Implementation Guidelines are relevant for the entire ICT sector as companies respond to government requests that can impact users' freedom of expression and privacy rights. Furthermore, our collaboration with the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue provides a uniquely authoritative voice for engagement with international institutions and governments.  

GNI urges governments, particularly those that have made commitments to human rights online, to report on the requests they make of companies to take down content or produce user data and to make it legally possible for companies to report regularly to the public on the requests they receive. 

The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue submission, which aligns with the GNI submission, can be found on the Industry Dialogue website

 

​New Report Reveals the Economic Costs of Internet Shutdowns

Date: 
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 06:17

WASHINGTON DC and AMSTERDAM, 27 October 2016

The Global Network Initiative today launched a new report: “The Economic Impact of Disruptions to Internet Connectivity,” which highlights the significant economic damage caused when governments around the world deliberately shut down or disrupt Internet services.

The report, which was prepared by Deloitte and made possible by funding from GNI member Facebook, lays out a framework for measuring the costs of shutdowns in terms of the daily gross domestic product lost in countries with varying levels of Internet connectivity.

Based on this approach, the report estimates that an average high-connectivity country stands to lose at least 1.9% of its daily GDP for each day all Internet services are shut down. For an average medium-level connectivity country, the loss is estimated at 1% of daily GDP, and for an average low-connectivity country, the loss is estimated at 0.4% of daily GDP.

“Governments should recognize the serious consequences of disrupting network access and see shutdowns through a human rights and development lens, not solely through a political or security lens,” said GNI Independent Board Chair Mark Stephens, CBE.

The government-mandated disruption of communications networks—including social media, Internet messaging services, mobile, VOIP and SMS—is a growing global problem. A recent study by the Brookings Institution documented some 81 shutdowns in the year between July 2015 and June 2016. That report estimated the total cost of shutdowns to be in excess of $2.4 billion over that period. Ethiopia, India, Brazil, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) and Saudi Arabia are just some of the governments that have disrupted their citizens’ Internet access over the past year.

“Shutting down the Internet undermines economic activity and chills free expression,“ said GNI Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg. “The economic and human rights harms of network shutdowns reinforce each other, and are of particular concern in developing countries, emerging and fragile democracies, and jurisdictions with weak rule of law.”

In dollar terms, the report estimates that for the average highly-connected country, the per-day impact of a complete Internet shutdown would amount to US$23.6 million per 10 million people. For the average country with medium and low levels of connectivity, the estimated GDP impact amounts to US$6.6 million and US$0.6 million per 10 million people, respectively.

This analysis suggests that the ongoing Internet shutdown in Ethiopia, a low-connectivity country with a population of 94 million and a per capita GDP of US$505, is costing its economy just under half-a-million US dollars a day in lost GDP.

The report underlines the need for governments to recognize that even temporary restrictions or reductions in Internet speed harm business and social activity online because they render some services unusable.

The report suggests avenues for future research on this critical issue. More work is needed on the effects of shutdowns on consumer and business confidence, the opportunity costs for businesses and the wider economy, and the social and human rights harms when families are cut off from one another and their access to basic health, education, and other vital services and information is restricted.

“The report is an important contribution to the research needed on the impact of shutdowns, said Mr. Stephens. “We encourage academics, development agencies and others to build on this work so that the true costs of shutdowns can be properly measured and understood, and so we can engage governments and prevent their use.” 

More information on network shutdowns and the Global Network Initiative

Global Network Initiative and Telecommunications Industry Dialogue joint statement on network shutdowns, July 12. For the first time, Internet and telecommunications companies joined together to express their deep concern at the spike in shutdowns globally: “ Network shutdowns and the wholesale blocking of Internet services are drastic measures that often risk being disproportionate in their impact. Governments who employ these measures often do so without justifying them as necessary and proportionate under international human rights standards.”

United Nations Human Rights Committee condemns shutdowns

In a recent landmark resolutionthe United Nations Human Rights Council stated that it “Condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law.” The UN HRC specifically “calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.”

About the Global Network Initiative

Launched in 2008, the Global Network Initiative occupies a unique place in the global conversation about freedom of expression and privacy in the Information and Communications Technology Sector. The GNI is a multi-stakeholder forum that brings together information and communications technology companies, civil society (including human rights and press freedom groups), academics and investors from around the world to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy. Our company members are Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo. Our observer members include Millicom, Nokia, Orange, Teléfonica, Telenor Group, Telia Company and Vodafone Group.

A full list of GNI members and observers can be found here. 

For interviews or comment, please contact GNI Director of Communications and Outreach Kath Cummins, kcummins@globalnetworkinitiative.org, or 202-590-0837.

 

 

 

GNI Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion

Date: 
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 14:34

GNI Encryption SubmissionGNI submitted comments for the report that the Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, is preparing on the legal framework governing the relationship between freedom of expression and the use of encryption and other technologies to transact and communicate securely online. 

Read the submission.

Data Beyond Borders: Mutual Legal Assistance in the Internet Age

Date: 
Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 08:08

The Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) regime—which consists of hundreds of bilateral and multilateral treaties that regulate government-to-government requests for user data—has struggled to keep up with the enormous number of requests for digital evidence arising from global Internet services. A report by the Global Network Initiative, “Data Beyond Borders: Mutual Legal Assistance in the Internet Age,” outlines key principles and specific reforms to drive a human rights-based approach to MLA reform for the twenty-first century.

“When mutual legal assistance does not function swiftly and fairly, governments resort to other tactics such as demanding data localization or attempting to apply their laws extraterritorially,” says report author Andrew K. Woods, assistant professor of law at the University of Kentucky. He added, “It is therefore critical that states work together to make mutual legal assistance more efficient and more protective of human rights. This is not an impossible task: states that are serious about reforming MLA can implement many of the most-urgent reforms in the next year.”

The report recommends that states work together to create a secure electronic system for managing MLA requests, increase staffing for MLA issues, and conduct thorough trainings at all levels of law enforcement to ensure that MLA requests are generated and processed as efficiently as possible and in a way that respects international human rights.

Read the report.

Watch the report launch event at CSIS.

Read the blog post about the report at Just Security.

 

GNI Submission to UK Investigatory Powers Review

Date: 
Friday, October 10, 2014 - 16:03

GNI submitted evidence to the UK government review of communications and interception powers by David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. 

Specifically, we recommend that the UK government:

  • Develop reform proposals for lawful interception and communications data that would serve as a worthy model for other countries to adopt, mindful that policy and legislation in the UK is often emulated by governments in the Commonwealth and around the world. 
  • Halt the bulk collection of content and communications data from providers, and bring all data collection programmes, for law enforcement and national security purposes, under the auspices of an independent oversight regime.
  • Prioritize Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) reforms to manage challenges around cross-border data requests, rather than asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction over data controlled outside the UK.
  • Adopt a robust set of transparency provisions that enable public understanding of the scope of interception and communications data powers, policies, and practices.
  • Broadly consult with industry, civil society organizations, and other key stakeholders to aid in the development of policy options for public debate, informed by human rights impact assessments.

Read the full submission.

Pages

GNI Workshop at 2016 IGF: Inclusive Responses to Intentional Internet Disruptions

The workshop used breakout groups to facilitate detailed discussions of three topics pertaining to shutdowns: connections to elections and moments of political importance, economic impacts, and technical considerations.
Date: 
Sat, 12/10/2016 - 11:16

GNI Presents at Special Meeting of UN Counter-Terrorism Committee

Alongside the launch of the GNI Extremist Content Policy Brief, Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg outlined approaches for both companies and governments to respond to alleged terrorist or extremist content while protecting rights to privacy and freedom of expression online.

Date: 
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 14:09

Encryption and Human Rights Online

GNI welcomes the report to the Human Rights Council by David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression, on encryption, anonymity and digital communications.
Date: 
Mon, 06/15/2015 - 16:51

Video: Data Beyond Borders Report Launch

Join us on January 28 for the launch of a new report commissioned by GNI to address the growing demand from law enforcement agents for access to data subject to another country’s jurisdiction.
Date: 
Mon, 02/02/2015 - 16:14

2014 Learning Forum on Transparency and Human Rights in the Digital Age - Geneva

On December 1, 2014, the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue and GNI held the second of their two Joint Learning Forums for the year 2014.
Date: 
Tue, 12/09/2014 - 16:42

Video: Surveillance Reforms: Toward Transparency and Accountability

Date: 
Tue, 04/29/2014 - 14:53


At the meeting of the Freedom Online Coalition in Tallinn, Estonia, GNI organized a session with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) on surveillance reforms and transparency: 

Video: The Role of Human Rights Impact Assessments in Advancing Rights Online

Date: 
Mon, 04/28/2014 - 14:46


At the meeting of the Freedom Online Coalition in Tallinn, Estonia, GNI organized a session with the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Human Rights Impact Assessments in the ICT sector: 

Video: Mark Stephens on the 'Right to Be Forgotten' Ruling

Date: 
Fri, 05/30/2014 - 14:59


GNI Board Chair Mark Stephens discusses the EU Court of Justice ruling on BBC World: 

Video: New Frontiers of Open Government

Date: 
Fri, 11/01/2013 - 11:00

At the Open Government Summit in London, GNI Board Chair Jermyn Brooks joined a panel on the next-generation challenges governments and civil society must face in advancing the open government agenda globally.

Event Recap: 2013 Learning Forum in Brussels

The Global Network Initiative and the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue held their first joint Learning Forum in Brussels, Belgium, presenting an opportunity to share perspectives on current challenges facing freedom of expression and privacy.
Date: 
Tue, 11/26/2013 - 09:49

Pages

GNI Responds to GCHQ in the Financial Times

In reaction to the Financial Times op-ed by Richard Hannigan, Director of GCHQ, GNI Board Chair Mark Stephens wrote this letter to the editor, "Need to intrude must be demonstrated, not merely asserted" published November 5:

 

Date: 
Wed, 11/05/2014 - 07:30

Op-Ed: Privacy Since Snowden

A year has passed since the American former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden began revealing the massive scope of Internet surveillance by the US National Security Agency.

Date: 
Wed, 06/18/2014 - 15:02

Op-Ed: Only the Powerful Will Benefit from the 'Right to Be Forgotten'

Last week's judgment by the European court of justice allowing anyone to demand that a search engine should remove unwanted information from its index – even if it is accurate, lawful, and publicly available elsewhere – is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.
Date: 
Mon, 05/19/2014 - 09:28

Pages

Annual Reports & Newsletters

2015 Annual Report

Date: 
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 18:00

2015 was an exciting year for the Global Network Initiative. We launched our second cycle of independent company assessments, we expanded our membership and we leveraged our multi-stakeholder voice for global freedom of expression and privacy.

Download the report.  

2014 Annual Report

Date: 
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:15

GNI's 2014 Annual Report describes the initiative's work on freedom of expression and privacy during the past year.

Download the report.  

2013 Annual Report

Date: 
Mon, 05/05/2014 - 00:01


The Global Network Initiative 2013 Annual Report charts the initiative’s progress protecting free expression and privacy in the ICT sector during the past year.

Download the report.  

External resources

External Resources

The Principles set out by the Global Network Initiative are founded on internationally recognized laws and standards for human rights. The following are the core international norms on which the Initiative's documents are based.
 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
 
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Other Resources

OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, updated 25 May 2011

Frank La Rue Special Report on the right to freedom of opinion and expression (pdf) 16 May 2011

Protect, Respect, and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights (pdf) 7 April 2008

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations Protect, Respect, and Remedy Framework (pdf) 21 March 2011

Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

UNESCO, "Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the Internet" 1 June 2011

Participant Resources

Resources from GNI Participants

Here you can find news, research, and data analysis on privacy and free expression online from our wide-ranging participants

Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California

New Media and Technology Research Page

Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Projects, Research, and News

Boston Common Asset Management

Sustainability and Engagement

Calvert Group

Sustainable and Responsible Investing

Center for Democracy & Technology

Global Internet Freedom

Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión

Freedom of Expression Research

Right of Access to Information

Committee to Protect Journalists 

CPJ Internet Channel

Domini Social Investments LLC

Human Rights

Electronic Frontier Foundation

"Our Work"

F&C Asset Management

Engagement Programmes

Folksam

International Cooperation

Google Inc.

Transparency Report

Human Rights First

Internet Freedom and Privacy

Business and Human Rights

Human Rights in China

Technology and Human Rights

Human Rights Watch

Business and Human Rights

Internet Freedom

Internews

Global Issues: Internet access

Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft Security Intelligence Report

Corporate Citizenship Report

Rebecca MacKinnon

New America Foundation

Global Voices Advocacy

Trillium Asset Management

Trillium's Approach to Socially Responsible Investing

United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Business & Human Rights (observer status)

Technology, Telecom, and Electronics

University of California, Berkeley School of Information

Current Research

Websense

Websense Policy on Government-Imposed Censorship

World Press Freedom Committee

WPFC Publications

Yahoo! Inc.

Yahoo! Business and Human Rights Program