Blown To Bits

Global Network Initiative

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

This is the industrial consortium resisting global Internet censorship about which I blogged yesterday. The site is now up, and you can download three documents, on the principles, implementation guidelines, and governance, accountability, and learning framework. I cut and paste the central principles below:

  • Participating companies will respect and protect the freedom of expression of their users¬†by seeking to avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of¬†expression, including restrictions on the information available to users and the¬†opportunities for users to create and communicate ideas and information, regardless of¬†frontiers or media of communication.
  • Participating companies will respect and protect the freedom of expression rights of their¬†users when confronted with government8 demands, laws and regulations to suppress¬†freedom of expression, remove content or otherwise limit access to information and ideas¬†in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.
  • Participating companies will employ protections with respect to personal information in all¬†countries where they operate in order to protect the privacy rights of users.
  • Participating companies will respect and protect the privacy rights of users when¬†confronted with government demands, laws or regulations that compromise privacy in a¬†manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.

And this is from the implementation guidelines:

When required to restrict communications or remove content, participating companies will:

  • Require that governments follow established domestic legal processes when they are¬†seeking to restrict freedom of expression.
  • Interpret government restrictions and demands so as to minimize the negative effect on¬†freedom of expression.
  • Interpret the governmental authority‚Äôs jurisdiction so as to minimize the negative effect on¬†to freedom of expression.

And these implementation items seems particularly interesting:

  • Participants will refrain from entering into voluntary agreements that require the participants to¬†limit users‚Äô freedom of expression or privacy in a manner inconsistent with the Principles.
  • Voluntary agreements entered into prior to committing to the Principles and which meet this¬†criterion should be revoked within three years of committing to the Principles.

Now the first one is just what the principles as a whole are about. The second one suggests that the companies signing onto these principles are supposed to get out of deals they have already cut with the governments — the very deals that created the pressure to bring these principles into being. That’s an important provision, and puts immediate action items in front of management of some companies.

An amusing “Bits” detail. This site was not live yesterday when I blogged about the initiative after seeing the New York Times story, and it did not turn up in a Google search done yesterday morning. It must have gone live yesterday afternoon. But apparently Google was indexing it, even when the page design was under development and had filler for content. Here is what the Google search shows as the page content for the Global Network Initiative site as of 8:55am EDT today: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Morbi commodo, ipsum sed pharetra gravida, orci.” If you’ve used a graphic or web page design package, you’ll recognize as the default text.

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