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Past Project

Global Network Initiative

In partnership with the Center for Democracy and Technology and Business for Social Responsibility, in addition to leading human rights groups, academic institutions, socially responsible investment firms, and internet and communications technology (ICT) companies — including Google, Vodafone, France Telecom, Microsoft, TeliaSonera, and Yahoo! — the Berkman Center has participated in an initiative to protect and advance individuals' rights to free expression and privacy on the Internet through the creation of a set of principles and supporting mechanisms for ICT companies.

With the rise in Internet filtering and surveillance around the world, the ICT sector frequently encounters state pressure to assist with censorship and to turn over personal information about users. Through the articulation of a broad set of common principles, the development of resources for implementation and a compliance structure, this collaborative effort is working to formulate an industry-wide response to guide businesses when they encounter laws and practices that may contravene international human rights standards or be at odds with law or culture in their home jurisdiction.

A significant focus of the project is collective action — shared learning, data generation, developing best practices, and garnering support from companies, human rights groups, and civil society organizations. Both the process and the resulting principles are dynamic, characterized by a desire to set strong guidelines and standards of practice that are also flexible enough to account for technological innovation, market changes, and the variety of companies and products that are represented by the membership.

Led by Managing Director Colin Maclay, Professors John Palfrey and Jonathan Zittrain, Faculty Fellow Urs Gasser and a large cast of collaborators, the Berkman team has played a role in the drafting process and in the development of implementation procedures aimed at helping companies to evaluate their adherence to the principles and to have a better sense of the global context for censorship and filtration. As the project enters its next phase, this initiative will advance efforts to further internationalize the process and develop supporting data sets.

Our Work 24

Apr 23, 2019 @ 12:00 PM

How to Work with Tech Companies on Human Rights

Insights from a decade of multi-stakeholder collaboration (and an argument with Steve Jobs)

PODCAST & VIDEO: In conversation with Chinmayi Arun, David Sullivan draws upon a decade of work with technology companies (and a heated argument with Steve Jobs) to offer insights…

Sep 20, 2011

Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding Principles and Practices for Companies and Users

In partnership with colleagues at the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Berkman Center is pleased to release a report on “Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding…

Feb 15, 2011

Questions for Secretary Clinton concerning "Internet freedom"

Faculty associate Matthew Hindman provoked an energetic email exchange among members of the extended Berkman Center community today, in anticipation of Secretary Clinton's …

Oct 14, 2010

2010 Circumvention Tool Usage Report

This paper evaluates the usage of blocking-resistant circumvention tools, simple web proxies, and VPN services and finds that overall usage of circumvention tools is still very…

Oct 1, 2009

The OpenNet Initiative reports on Internet filtering in Sub-Saharan Africa

ONI has released new research on Sub-Saharan Africa, including reports on Uganda and Nigeria, where ONI tested for the first time in 2008 and 2009...

Aug 12, 2009

OpenNet Initiative releases 2009 Middle East & North Africa research

The Berkman Center is pleased to share an announcement from the ONI: the partnership has released new studies of Internet filtering in the Middle East and North Africa. Government…

Jun 8, 2009

Catching up with the Global Network Initiative

Since its public launch last fall, the Global Network Initiative has been focused on developing the institutional foundation for the Initiative by elaborating its learning program…

Jun 2, 2009

Herdict Chinese is live

(updated June 2)

Herdict Web -- Berkman's tool for tracking global web (in)accessibility -- is now available in Mandarin! And, as of June 2, Herdict is seeing a surge in reporting from China...

May 27, 2009

The Chinese Internet and Civil Society

Civic Engagement, Deliberation and Culture

The 7th Chinese Internet Research Conference starts today, at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania, and a raft of Berkman researchers and…

Apr 8, 2009

Herdict Web gets bigger and smarter...

Herdict Web -- Berkman's tool for tracking global web (in)accessibility -- has now been in the wild for six weeks! and what wild and woolly weeks they have been (YouTube blocked…

Mar 5, 2009

Report release: 2007 Circumvention Landscape Report: Methods, Uses, and Tools

The Berkman Center is pleased to make available its report on techniques and tools for circumventing Internet filtering...

Mar 5, 2009

2007 Circumvention Landscape Report: Methods, Uses, and Tools

A large variety of different projects have developed tools that can be used to circumvent Internet filtering, allowing people in filtered countries access to otherwise filtered…

Mar 3, 2009 @ 12:30 PM

The Tao of the Web: China and the future of the Internet

Rebecca MacKinnon

Most English-language discussions about "the future of the Internet" approach the subject from an Anglo-American and European perspective. But what if you take China - now with…

Feb 25, 2009

Herdict Web

the verdict of the herd

The Berkman Center is pleased to announce the official launch of Herdict Web -- a tool that employs the distributed power of the Internet community to provide insight into what…

Oct 29, 2008

Global Network Initiative launches

Berkman is pleased to announce the launch of the Global Network Initiative, a dynamic effort developed in partnership with leading human rights groups, academics, socially…

Oct 28, 2008

Diverse Coalition Launches New Effort To Respond to Government Censorship and Threats to Privacy

In an effort to protect and advance the human rights of freedom of expression and privacy, a diverse coalition of leading information and communications companies, major human…

Oct 2, 2008

"Breaching Trust," China’s TOM-Skype platform

Our colleagues at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab have released a major report, "Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China’s TOM-Skype…

Jul 31, 2008

China, Internet filtering, and the Olympics

The 2008 Olympics open in Beijing in about a week, and Internet filtering practices in China have again made international headlines as journalists and others experience the so…

Jul 18, 2008

Thinking through section 201 of the Global Online Freedom Act

Over on the Future of the Internet blog, Berkman summer intern Brendan Ballou takes a look at the Global Online Freedom Act being considered by Congress...

May 21, 2008

US Senate hearing on "Global Internet Freedom: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law "

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law heard testimony on "Global Internet Freedom: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of…

May 8, 2008

Yahoo! launches Business and Human Rights Program

As part of the Principles on Free Expression and Privacy effort, the Berkman Center has been participating in an ongoing dialogue among cross-sector stakeholders - including…

Mar 25, 2008

On Tibet

Protests in Tibet - and the Chinese crackdown and troop build-up in Lhasa and elsewhere - have dominated headlines this week. China's blocking of YouTube and other measures…

Mar 25, 2008 @ 7:30 PM

Digital Dilemmas: A Multi-stakeholder Response to Internet Censorship and Surveillance

NYU Law Information Law Institute Colloquium, co-sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School

Participants discussed the role that corporations should play in response to government-mandated Internet censorship and surveillance.

Mar 1, 2007

Reluctant Gatekeepers: Corporate Ethics on a Filtered Internet

Corporations are increasingly finding themselves caught in the crosshairs as they are asked by local authorities to carry out censorship and surveillance online. This chapter…

Community 01

Global Network Initiative

Ten Years of the Global Network Initiative

How GNI works to counteract the pressures on companies to act in ways that may pose risks for users’ rights

Nov 20, 2018

People 05