In reaction to Google’s decision to take a new approach to its business operations in China, the Global Network Initiative issued the following statement:

Google’s decision to reconsider its business in China is an indication of the tough choices information and communications technology (ICT) companies face around the world where respect for human rights is at risk. The Global Network Initiative (GNI) provides principlesguidelines and support to help companies think through these choices and make decisions that protect freedom of expression and privacy for hundreds of millions of Internet users around the world.

It is essential that the global ICT industry and its stakeholders make a public and shared commitment to respect user rights in the face of increased threats to freedom of expression and privacy. The ICT industry is diverse, and different companies may make different decisions about entering or exiting a market based on specific circumstances such as timing, location, relationships and the nature of a particular product, service or business. There is no “one size fits all” approach to corporate responsibility, nor a single right course of action or script for all to follow. We invite all ICT companies to participate in the GNI and draw upon the guidance and insights provided by the GNI’s Principles and guidelines in creating a responsible approach to business decisions.

ICT companies worldwide can use the GNI’s Principles, guidelines and tools to assess human rights risk when entering or leaving a market or when designing and introducing new technologies, products or services. By participating in the GNI and working together with human rights groups, investors and academics, ICT companies can benefit from valuable collaboration, accountability, confidential input and collective action. These resources can help companies manage these challenges, maintain credibility and support the privacy and freedom of expression rights of their users.

The GNI’s Guidelines indicate that companies should:

  • Establish human rights risk assessment procedures and integrate the findings into business decision making.
  • Require that governments follow established domestic legal processes when they are seeking to restrict freedom of expression and privacy.
  • Provide users with clear, prominent and timely notice when access to specific content has been removed or blocked.
  • Encourage governments, international organizations and entities to call attention to the worst cases of infringement on the human rights of freedom of expression and privacy.
  • Utilize independent assessments of company implementation of the GNI’s Principles.

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