In responding to the removal, censorship and blocking of online publishing services – home to increasingly popular user generated content such as blogs, videos and photos – the Global Network Initiative stated today that its participating companies will continue to take steps to minimize the impact on users and the public and to encourage governments to protect the right to freedom of expression.

Around the globe, government authorities often use legal or technical means to censor information and communication over the Internet. This increasingly means restricting the ability of individuals to publish their own work and express themselves online through personal blogs, the uploading of videos or the sharing of photos and, in turn, the ability of individuals to access such published content.

The GNI brings together a diverse group of companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics to establish global operational principles for companies to respect human rights, and to collaborate on public policy — including encouraging governments to allow their citizens to seek, receive and impart information freely.

Ongoing and recurring incidents around the world have highlighted the need for this Initiative. Recent blocking of online video sites and forced removal of blog content or photos by governments are illustrative of practices that can result in inappropriate restrictions on freedom of expression and the free flow of information and ideas.

GNI stated:

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) believes that responding to restrictions on rights to free expression and access to information requires collaboration among a broad spectrum of companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics, working with governments and multilateral organizations that support international human rights and the rule of law.

In the case of participating GNI companies who offer or support online publishing services, these companies are committed to taking steps to help advance the free flow of information in responding to blocks or other restrictions on online publishing.  These steps include:

  • Requiring governments to follow established domestic legal processes when they are seeking to restrict freedom of expression, and seek to encourage transparency, due process and rule of law;
  • Interpreting government restrictions and demands so as to minimize the negative effect on freedom of expression, such as removing content only for local markets rather than worldwide.
  • Interpreting the governmental authority’s jurisdiction so as to minimize the negative effect on freedom of expression, such as removing access content only subject to a legally binding notice, or if the content violates the service’s terms of use.

The full GNI membership will be working collaboratively to help companies follow through on these commitments and to encourage governments around the world to look to international standards, and to be transparent and follow rule of law, when restricting the publication of information and ideas.

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