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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 07

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… More

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… More

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… More

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… More

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… More

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. More

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… More

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