Every day, technology companies receive requests from governments around the world to censor content, restrict access to communications services, or provide access to user data. Given this reality, how can technology companies best respect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users – wherever they operate?
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) was launched in 2008 to address this question. A unique multistakeholder platform, GNI was the product of more than two years of deliberation by information and communications technology (ICT) companies, human rights and press freedom organizations, academics, and investors.
The architects of GNI created a multistakeholder process because they recognized that the complex and evolving challenge of protecting digital rights globally requires a concerted and combined effort, drawing on the perspectives, leverage, credibility, and expertise of many different stakeholders.
They also agreed that the foundation for good law and policy is internationally recognized rights to freedom of expression and privacy. These rights and protections are enshrined in instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and subsequently, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
GNI members work together in two mutually supporting ways. The GNI Principles (“the Principles”) and Implementation Guidelines provide an evolving framework for responsible company decision making in support of freedom of expression and privacy rights. As company participation expands, the GNI Principles are taking root as a global standard for human rights in the ICT sector. Every two to three years, GNI company members participate in an independent assessment to determine their progress in implementing the GNI Principles.
GNI also provides a safe space for shared learning and a forum for collective advocacy with governments and international institutions in support of laws and policies that promote and protect freedom of expression and privacy. For example, GNI participates in the Christchurch Call Advisory Network, the Freedom Online Coalition Advisory Network, Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, and the OECD Project on Voluntary Transparency Reporting for Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content. GNI has also partnered with multilateral institutions, including the Council of Europe and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.
GNI’s growing membership includes ICT companies, civil society organizations, academics, and investors from Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, and the Middle East, bringing a diversity of experiences, insights, and perspectives to our work. See the current list of members.