The Global Network Initiative (GNI) supports the objective of legislation that would protect and advance rights to free expression and privacy online and provide increased transparency and accountability for information and communications technology (ICT) companies operating worldwide.
GNI member companies have made a public commitment to undertake human rights due diligence measures. We commend the authors of H.R. 3605, the Global Online Freedom Act of 2011, for requiring disclosure by companies about the human rights due diligence measures they undertake.
GNI’s membership, which includes companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academic institutions, is carefully evaluating the details of this bill. We are cognizant that the global effects of Internet-related legislation are complex and have been known to produce unintended consequences for Internet users around the world. As a network of networks, the very nature of the Internet underscores the importance of consulting with each of those communities to understand the potential implications of legislation, including complexities related to its implementation and enforcement.
GNI is interested in supporting effective legislative measures to curtail the use of ICTs for purposes that infringe on universal human rights, including censorship and surveillance. Our members commit to Principles on Freedom of Expression, Privacy, Responsible Company Decision-Making, and Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration in the development of appropriate standards for transparency and accountability in the ICT sector. This is a global challenge. We urge the committee to consult closely with Internet users and civil society groups from countries where Internet users face the most acute threats, as well as from countries where online free expression and privacy are facing gradual yet serious erosion, in order to mitigate the risk of unintended consequences as this legislation moves forward. GNI’s members look forward to engaging with Congress on this important issue.