In 2014, the Global Network Initiative Board of Directors undertook a strategic review of the initiative’s progress toward creating a standard to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy across the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.

The review took place at an inflection point in GNI’s history, following the organization’s fifth anniversary and the completion of the first cycle of independent assessments for the founding companies, alongside the government surveillance revelations made by Edward Snowden, and increasing government threats to free expression and privacy rights worldwide.

The aim of the review was to take stock of GNI’s achievements thus far, and to consider how to build an even stronger multi-stakeholder initiative to address the freedom of expression and privacy challenges in the ICT sector that are now in the global spotlight.

GNI’s multi-stakeholder Board of Directors undertook the review with consulting support from Michael Samway, adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service Program and former GNI Board member for Yahoo. The review process included extensive consultation with current and former GNI participants, assessors and key external stakeholders.


As part of the strategic review, the Board agreed to recommendations concerning GNI’s shared learning and policy advocacy, organizational capacity and fundraising, communications strategy, and independent assessment process. In February 2015, the Board approved revisions to the GNI Governance Charter and Accountability, Learning, and Policy Framework to reflect these decisions.

Learning and policy

GNI renewed its commitment to increase its policy and learning activity and approved strategies for policy advocacy and shared learning as part of the review. From our successful advocacy in support of intermediary liability reforms in India, to our efforts to increase transparency around government surveillance and content removal with the Freedom Online Coalition, our activities are already demonstrating the impact of multi-stakeholder collaboration on policy advocacy.

Organizational capacity and fundraising

As part of a comprehensive effort to increase and diversify GNI’s sources of funding, the board has developed a fundraising policy to determine what sources of funding, including from governments as well as private sources, GNI will accept. This policy has been posted on the GNI website and is available here.


The Board approved a revised communications strategy, updating GNI’s processes for public statements and communicating its work to the public. Communications will focus on two objectives: 1) advancing the adoption of the GNI Principles worldwide; and 2) Influencing policy to create an enabling environment for implementing the principles and guidelines.

Accountability and assessment 

As part of the review of the assessment process, the Board has agreed to changes to the process to make it more efficient, effective, and transparent.

The assessment process will now combine the review of company policies and processes with the case review into a single independent assessment of participating companies, which will occur every other year. Participating companies complete a self-assessment within one year of joining GNI, followed by an independent assessment following their one-year anniversary as a full member. Companies will use best efforts to provide more transparency on the results of the independent assessment, and each company will produce a public description or report based on the independent assessment within six months following the completion of the assessment process. More detail about the assessment process is available here.

Next steps

Following the results of the review, and in keeping with a commitment to regularly review the initiative’s core documents, GNI is also undertaking a review of the Principles and Implementation Guidelines during 2015. More information about this review and consultations with external stakeholders will be announced in the near future. If you are interested in learning more, contact us at [email protected].