Every Breath You Take: Human Rights Implications of Geolocation

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

Geolocation is making my life possible. I travel for work frequently, at least twice per month. I have approximately one million children, and I travel with my infant twins. My days are held together with string, duct tape and apps. Shout out to AirBnB, Flickr, GrubHub and the sweet, sweet blessing that is Uber! Have you ever tried to hail a cab in DC with two infants, two carseats, one stroller frame, 30 cloth diapers in varying states of cleanliness and two Sophies? I do not recommend it.

Being able to get a cab or a meal or a place to stay (With washer and dryer, please!) with the tap of a screen, without having to have a complicated conversation over the roar of traffic or babies is FANTASTIC, and geolocation makes it happen.

So, imagine my joy to be invited to speak on a panel at the Center for Geographic Analysis and the Berkman Center conference on Creating the Policy and Legal Framework for a Location–Enabled Society. I was surrounded by very smart people doing brilliant things in the geolocation space. The panel was called “The Role of Government in a Location Enabled Society”, with Nigel Jacob, Sandy Pentland and  Stephen Goldsmith. Nigel Jacob is a White House Champion for Change who co-founded the Office of New Urban Mechanics – a civic innovation incubator in Boston with a signature app, Citizens Connect, which has been downloaded more than 16,000 times and replicated in more than 20 countries since it was launched in 2009. Sandy Pentland directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives, and is, awesomely, one of the ten most-cited computational scientists in the world. Stephen Goldsmith is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, directing the Mayoral Performance Analytics Initiative, and he previously served as Deputy Mayor of New York and Mayor of Indianapolis. Underachievers, all.

It was a fascinating conversation, in Nigel’s words,  about the tremendous opportunity for government to explore location-based technology for the public good. Sandy Pentland described his research showing geolocation’s potential for stopping pandemics, stressing that these public welfare initiatives can be achieved with relatively safe, anonymous aggregate data.

I got the chance to mention Flickr’s geofencing capabilities—as even the simplest smartphones and digital cameras are able to transmit tremendous amounts of location data. When people upload the images to public platforms like Flickr, they are sharing lots of information about themselves, and some of that sharing may be inadvertent. Flickr’s genius geo-fencing feature gives users the ability to finely control the privacy settings on their images.  It’s a common sense feature with real-life human rights impact.

For a company, these conversations represent tremendous opportunity to drive business and also to contribute to making the world a better place—to do well AND to do good. The most interesting questions for me arise when considering the intersection of policy, technology and human rights. For example, what happens when what a particular government considers to be a public good (say, preventing its citizens from expressing themselves online about decisions made by the government) goes against what we consider to be international human rights norms? What happens when location data is NOT anonymized, and governments seek to use that data to track down dissidents, as opposed to  fixing potholes? And what is the socially responsible role of companies, which are often repositories for all of this data? Whose job is it to educate users on the human rights implications of location data? Is it possible to do without pages and pages of legalese?

These are the questions we grapple with, and one of the many reasons Yahoo! has created the BHRP.  It’s why we do human rights impact assessments, and it’s why we are a member of GNI; these are all complicated questions, and as technology evolves, the questions will only get more difficult. Being able to benefit from the collective wisdom of external stakeholders, big thinkers and GNI members like the Berkman Center helps Yahoo! continue to make daily habits safe and inspiring for our users.

Collaborating on Telecommunications and Human Rights


By Susan Morgan, Executive Director, Global Network Initiative

Information and communications technology (ICT) companies—from search engines and software providers to network operators and equipment vendors—enable access to information and the exchange of ideas around the world. But the more we depend on technology in every part of our lives, the more that company business decisions can impact human rights, particularly free expression and privacy.

Governments have legitimate national security and law enforcement responsibilities that require assistance from technology companies, from fighting terrorism to protecting children online. But when governments, whether in pursuit of legitimate objectives or not, seek to remove content, restrict network access, or request users’ personal information, it puts companies in a difficult situation. Dramatic Internet shutdowns have captured worldwide public attention, but are just one part of a complex challenge.

The Global Network Initiative brings together ICT companies with human rights and press freedom organizations, investors, and academics to address these challenges with a framework rooted in universal human rights standards. Since GNI was formed, the human rights implications of the telecoms sector have entered the global spotlight.

In response to these concerns, a group of global telecommunications operators and vendors have been meeting since 2011 to discuss freedom of expression and privacy rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Today we are excited to announce a two-year collaboration with eight companies who currently belong to the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue: Alcatel -Lucent, France Telecom-Orange, Millicom, Nokia Siemens Networks, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, and Vodafone. GNI will house the work of the Industry Dialogue, providing a platform to exchange best practice, learning, and the further development of due diligence tools. We will help them engage with a wide array of interested groups on the Guiding Principles on telecommunications and freedom of expression and privacy they have developed.

During the two years of collaboration, the members of the Industry Dialogue are not joining GNI. But we do aim to establish a common approach to freedom of expression and privacy rights. GNI’s vision is the creation of a global corporate responsibility benchmark for freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. We hope this is a step in that direction.

3 things are here to stay: Women, the Internet and human rights

By Claudia Calvin

I guess this assessment doesn´t surprise anyone: women, the Internet and human rights are here to stay. Probably what surprises whoever is reading this is the impact and outreach the three of them together can have.

Change Your World (Cambia Tu Mundo), Yahoo!’s Business & Human Rights Summit that took place on September 12th and 13th in Mexico City is an excellent example of what I mean. For a day and a half, women from different countries, backgrounds and experiences in Latin America shared their dreams, lives, challenges and proved that new technologies and the Internet are incomparable tools of empowerment.

I won´t go over the event’s program nor the participants. (Links to them are available here and here). What I want to do is highlight the wonderful lessons I learned after participating in Change Your World.

1. Women are a driving force towards equality in the world.  Yes, women represent not only 50% of the world population, they represent half of the idea and proposal creators. Many don´t know it, but new technologies can help them be heard and allow their proposals and ideas to be included in the development and prosperity of their communities, countries…. and therefore… of the planet.

2. Digital literacy of women in Latin America must be considered a priority for policy makers. Even though Spanish is the third most important language on the Internet with 182,379,220 users,  there is lack of content created and written in it. If you add the lack of women´s voices as content creators in the region, the figures are worrisome.  We cannot allow nor permit the addition of this marginalization to the many other kinds of marginalization women face (education, health, financial, justice and so on).

3. Women and the Internet can be a creative explosion. Throughout the sessions one thing was absolutely clear:  the participants demonstrated in various and creative ways how the Internet can be used to support not only good causes, but very practical economic, social and political outcomes. The Internet can be a democratization tool to help build and consolidate new realities where women´s interests and needs can be not only expressed but included.

I have to add that Yahoo´s interest in women, new technologies and human rights guided by the Yahoo! Business and Human Rights Program represents an assertive tool to show the world that inclusion, development and prosperity can only be achieved if the population that has been excluded (women) is included in every project and proposal.

The right to be informed and to have access to the means to express oneself must be a priority not only to ICT companies but for users, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs and policy makers in the Internet and ICT field.

Finally, I want to thank Yahoo!, Yahoo Latin America and Yahoo! Mexico and especially Sonja Gittens-Ottley and Ebele Okobi  for including me in this process. I say process, not event, because I am convinced that Cambia Tu Mundo was the trigger for a process of inclusion, creation, transformation, cooperation, knowledge and support among women in the region. It takes a process to Change Your World….

Claudia Calvin is Executive Director for the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI) and Founder of Mujeres Construyendo, the first platform for Spanish speaking bloggers in Latin America as guest blogger. Claudia was the event moderator at Change Your World Mexico City 2012.

Women, Technology, and Social Media

By Jamie

Angelica Das, Associate Director, Center for Social Media, American University
Originally posted here on May 18, 2012.

Did you know that Yahoo! has a Business & Human Rights Program? Today they hosted a Change Your World Summit in Washington, D.C.–a follow up to their first Summit in Cairo–dedicated to Women, Technology and Social/Digital Media. I showed up to see what’s new in the discussion that may apply to social documentary filmmakers.

The speakers’ line-up was impressive, here’s just a sampling:

Holly Gordon, Executive Producer, 10×10
Courtney Martin, Feministing and ValentiMartin Media
Mikaela Beardsley, Executive Producer, Half the Sky
Lindsay Guetschow, Senior Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances, Participant Media
Emily Jacobi, Executive Director and Founder, Digital Democracy
Marietje Schaake, Member of European Parliament
Jennifer Preston,  Reporter, New York Times
Shelby Knox, Director of Organizing, Women’s Rights for
Allison Palmer, Vice President of Campaigns and Programs, GLAAD
Kristin Peterson, CEO, Inveneo

Women are still reticent to own their own expertise. That’s one of the motivations for the director of Business & Human Rights at Yahoo! Inc., Ebele Okobi, to host this event. In addition to robust panels, the Summit included a session of the The Op Ed Project, “a social venture founded to increase the range and quality of ideas we hear in the world,” by helping train women to communicate for the spread of influence and ideas. Women in social documentary can certainly identify with the need.


Some of “the biggest flashes on the media landscape are white dudes articulating their own guilt,” said Courtney Martin.

Think about Kony 2012 on one side and Waiting for Superman on the other, even Kristoff’s Half the Sky. All are examples of white men as central figures. Miss Representation was a women-centered documentary that revealed the problem of who create messages in media. But there, still, a privileged white woman is at the helm. Why is this a problem beyond the obvious inequity? Social change media makers face this ongoing challenge.

“Don’t be tempted to simplify women’s rights into a women’s issue,”  according to Marietje Schaake, European Member of Parliament for the Dutch Democratic Party.

Schaake emphasized the she didn’t get elected because women voted for her. She’s an MP because she has good ideas and people voted for her. The message, as articulated by Ann Mei Chang from the U.S. State Department, is that inclusion of women isn’t the right thing to do, or a moral issue, it’s the necessary thing to do. Inclusion of women means better outcomes. People at all levels recognize this. Digital Democracy held a mobile technology training in Chiapas, Mexico, said Founder and Executive Director Emily Jacobi, and the community decided that women were the most important recipients. What’s good for women is good for everyone. It’s a strategic argument. Take the economic angle – by not giving phones to women on a global scale, you’re “leaving money on the table,” said Chang. Anthea Watson Strong, former Director of Voter Experience the Obama for America Technology Team, says “real time data is going to show us that women are superusers of social media and technology.” There’s some leverage for campaign X.

What social documentary filmmakers know better than most: story transcends technology.

Don’t discount the power of the network to carry a story, even at the most local level. Afghanistan has 300,000 users on Facebook and it’s own tech start-ups. On, a brother started a petition for his sister who was raped in the jim crow era, and whose known perpetrators were never prosecuted. The outcome: the local legislature issued an official public apology. Also, a surprising number of petitions on are kids hoping for a bigger allowance. Well… you have to start somewhere. Advocacy organizations like Resolve count on individual stories. They put infertile couples in the offices of Congress people, and make sure the moment is uncomfortable, in addition to creating online spaces for stories. Other examples of small going big? How about the infamous “penis picture”–as referred to by Allison Fine, Senior Fellow at Demos: A Network of Ideas and Action–of men at the infamous contraception hearing on the Hill. Also–the response to the backlash against Ellen Degeneres when she was chosen as JC Penney’s spokesperson. Meanwhile, two women in Afghanistan opened a women’s only internet cafe on International Women’s Day in Kabul.

Shelby Knox, Director of Organizing and Women’s Rights at said “there are people out there to get pissed off with, so let’s do it.”

Couldn’t say it better than that.

So where will you start? How about — The 2012 Cannes film festival has 22 finalists. … None of them are women.


Change Your World DC!!

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

The BHRP hosted Change Your World DC 2012 at The Newseum in Washington, DC on Friday, May 18, 2012!  CYW focused on how women are using technology, the Internet and social media to create positive change in the world. We had the privilege of spending a day and a half with inspiring women like Heather Holdridge of Planned Parenthood, Dutch Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake, and New York Times reporter Jennifer Preston.

We were thrilled to host as our special guests 14 women from across the US, who are running for office in the 2012 elections. They included Lisa Sprague, who is running for Sherriff in Leon County (Tallahassee), Florida. If elected, she would be the very first woman elected to the office of Sherriff in Leon County. We also welcomed Jessica Haak, who is campaigning to be elected to North Dakota’s state legislature, and Tomeka Hart, running for Congress from the 9th District. We’ll be posting more about these phenomenal women in the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) opened with a keynote address that highlighted how social media allowed millions of ordinary voters to protest the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  In her words “It wasn’t Google, it wasn’t Wikipedia, [. . .]It was the American people who called in and changed it.”

Congresswoman Lofgren also described how social media was used to galvanize millions of men and women across America to protest the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s plan to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, and to amplify the voices of Americans fighting for an informed legislative policy on reproductive health care. She ended her speech with a call to action, asking technology companies and other stakeholders to use their powers for good, to lend voice to those living under oppressive regimes. For video of her address, see here.

We heard from four groups of experts, on four panels: Bread and Circus—Media with a Mission; Government 2.0; Social Media and Women’s Health and Hearts, Minds and Wallets – Using Technology and Social Media for Social Impact.

Fulbright Fellow and Cairo Policy Review editor Lauren Bohn moderated Bread and Circus, which was a fantastically lively conversation about how the proliferation of online media platforms amplifies voices and tells stories that would otherwise go unheard. Panelists included Courtney Martin of Feministing and ValentiMartin Media, Georgia Popplewell of Global Voices, Holly Gordon of 10×10, Lindsay Guestchow of Participant Media, Lisa Belkin of the HuffingtonPost’s Parentry, Lylah Alphonse, the Senior Political Editor of Yahoo! Shine and Mikaela Beardsley, Executive Producer of Half the Sky. Panelists discussed social and digital media’s role in blurring the line between journalism and advocacy, whether women are more or less likely to be considered experts on social media platforms versus traditional media, the implications of KONY 2012 and whether social causes are still more likely to galvanize interest when fronted by, as Ms. Martin memorably put it “privileged white dudes”.  Mikaela Beardsley, executive producer of Half the Sky noted, “I don’t know if the role of journalism should be advocacy so much as the role of journalism has now expanded so that when I am writing a piece of journalism, I can then link to the people and the places that can then lead you to take action.”  For video of this fascinating conversation, see here.

The Government 2.0 panel, moderated by noted expert on women’s political leadership Erin Vilardi, discussed how women are using social media and technology to run, to engage with constituents, to drive policy and govern. Panelists included Ann Mei Chang from the US State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, Anthea Watson Strong, former director of voter experience for the Obama campaign and currently a brand new member of Google’s public policy and elections team, Emily Jacobi, the ED of Digital Democracy; Lorelei Kelly, the founder of Smart Congress, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake and Mary Rickles of Netroots Nation. The panelists discussed the power of social media to engage and galvanize voters and constituents, but a few stressed the importance of pairing social media campaigns with traditional on the ground, grassroots politicking.  Panelists highlighted notable examples of social media’s role in driving legislative policy; they cited the role that bloggers, Tweeters and others had in pushing for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, in advocating for the review of Stand Your Ground laws in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s shooting and the uproar over stop and frisk as examples. Marietje Schaake sounded a note of caution, reminding the audience that  given the socio-economic factors related to who has access to social media tools and platforms, we should be wary of believing that the voices on Twitter are truly representative of societies or electorates.

Other members of the panel agreed that while some governments are embracing digital transparency (to varying degrees), disenfranchised citizens’ lack of access to technological tools is still an important issue. “We have to remind ourselves over and over again that democracy is only as strong as the way in which it considers minorities, in the traditional sense and in [terms of] voices,” added Schaake.  For more, see here for video.

Panelists on the Social Media Advocacy and Women’s Health, led by social media expert and New York Times’ reporter Jennifer Preston, considered how social media and technology have been used to advocate for critical issues related to women’s health. Panelists included Allison Fine, senior fellow, Demos; Rebecca Flick, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Projects at RESOLVE, Sarah Moser, Regional Communications Director at CARE; Supriya Misra, Senior Project Manager at TeachAIDS. The discussion addressed how people took to social media to express frustration over Planned Parenthood’s defunding, the lack of informed female voices in policy conversations about contraception, using technology to educate women and girls about HIV prevention in communities averse to frank conversations about sexuality, the changing relationship of health care advocacy organizations to the communities they serve, and much more.  According to Heather Holdridge, “The challenge for the field of advocacy, the field of women’s health…is that the role of organizations is fundamentally shifting; [organizations] have to learn to follow as much as they know how to lead.” Heather described Planned Parenthood’s integrated digital approach to addressing the Susan G. Komen foundation’s decision to cut funding. They listened to how people were responding online using real-time monitoring, which enabled them to know exactly how to respond to their supporters and helped them to identify concrete ways that people could take action, both on and off line.  For more, please see here for video of the session.

Hearts, Minds and Wallets, moderated by New York Times best-selling author and deputy director, Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, focused on turning social advocacy into action. Panelists included  Allison Palmer, Vice President of Campaigns and Programs at GLAAD; Kristin Peterson, CEO of Inveneo; Ruth Martin, Campaign Director at MomsRising; Sean McDonald, Executive Director of Frontline SMS and Shelby Knox, Director of Organizing for Women’s Rights at They agreed on the importance of authentic story telling; highlighting personal stories to help people connect to causes.  They also discussed how social media has allowed people more direct access to organizations, resulting in more direct influence over which issues are championed.

They also discussed access to technology, and how to make products and platforms relevant and available to disenfranchised or disconnected groups. Kristin Peterson, said, “Technology is not enough. What is really important is how you make that technology relevant, available and affordable to people in underserved areas.” For more from this panel, see here.

The Summit concluded by turning all of the talk into action. Catherine Orenstein, founder and director of the OpEd Project, presented a workshop on Peak Credibility: How to present ideas in ways that will spread.  Participants got a sampler of OpEd’s powerful workshops, whose goal is to to increase the number of women thought leaders and create a world where the best ideas – regardless of where they come from – have a chance to be heard, and to change the world.

Change Your World DC was a fantastic follow up to Change Your World Cairo. Our goal is to bring together people who are passionate about creating a better world, and who are using the Internet, social media and/or technology to make their mark. Each event is wholly shaped by the issues and events of the country and region, and we are looking forward with great anticipation to Change Your World Mexico City, in September of this year! We’d love to hear from you; do let us know if you have any ideas, comments, or recommendations!

For more pictures from Change Your World DC, see here.

For pictures from the pre-Summit reception, click here.


By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

Last week, I went to Jerusalem! But, I didn’t see the Dome of the Rock. Or the Western Wall. Or Golgotha. I spent my four days Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem in dimly lit hotel conference rooms, and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.

I had the privilege of being a trainer for the US State Department’s women’s empowerment tech camps; one was held in Tel Aviv, and one was held in Ramallah. I spent four days with phenomenal women who are community leaders, founders of NGOs, technology geeks, human rights activists—a collection of people determined to change the world.

Women like Fida Ouri, (who just happened to be one of our panelists for Change Your World Cairo!), who is the deputy director of NISAA FM, an all-women’s radio station in the West Bank. Women like Ma’ayan Alexander,who works with NGOs at the intersection of social change and technology.

The format for both trainings was similar—they kicked off with a welcome from the local partner [Appleseeds Academy in Tel Aviv and Ellam Tam in Ramallah], and, happyhappyjoyjoy, a message from one of my favorite women, Secretary Hillary Clinton, whose tireless focus on both the empowerment of women and girls AND the potential of the Internet and technology as platforms for positive engagement are things of beauty. As is her most excellent response to this and, and, AND her fantastically over-it response to this.

I presented trainings about how to use Flickr to tell your story, facilitated group discussions about mentoring (those three years that I spent at Catalyst are the gift that keeps giving!), described myself in three words, and fulfilled a life-long dream of eating hummus at every single meal, including breakfast and elevenses.

For fantastic video from the events, see here and here.

Their descriptions tell the story best, but I came away with a few observations:
Technology is just a tool; I think Yahoo!’s 2009-10 Georgetown Fellow Evgeny Morozov’s work is properly realistic about the potential for technology to be used in ways that do not support human rights. But I continue to be inspired by people using ordinary tools and platforms to do extraordinary things. Check out Tech Camp participant Geocommons for examples of people using open source mapping to tell stories about everything from violence against journalists in Afghanistan to gender parity in African politics.

Storytelling is incredibly powerful, and technology is enabling people who don’t have access to traditional forms of media to tell their own stories.

See here , here and here for a few examples:

Finally, I was struck by how much energy there was, in Ramallah and in Tel Aviv, to connect, to create, to learn. Most of all, it was awe-inspiring to be surrounded by so many people so deeply passionate about creating a better world. I look forward to going back, insh’allah!

Yahoo! Talks Human Rights at SXSW

By Amber

In 1987, the first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) was held in Austin, Texas. What began as an eclectic music festival has grown into a important international discussion hosting not just musicians but film and high-tech companies. So this week, as more than 2,000 bands descend upon the Texas capital, so to did the Yahoo! Business and Human Rights team looking to spread our message.

We participated in two great panels on Monday. First, An Unusual Arsenal: Tech Tools to Topple a Tyrant. Yahoo!’s Sonja Gittens-Ottley was joined with Aasil Ahmad, Votifi; David Gorodyansky, AnchorFree; Jamal Dajani, Internews Network and Neal Ungerleider, Fast Company. The panelists discussed the intersection of technology and global geopolitical uprisings. Sonja noted, “When you cut-off online platforms and digital services, you force people into the streets. This is what happened in Cairo and elsewhere.” To join or follow the converstation, #sxsw #overthrow.

Next, Africa, Tech & Women: The New Faces of Development. This panel included Ebele Okobi, Yahoo!; Deborah Ensor, Internews; Isis Nyong’o, InMobi Africa; Liz Ngonzi, New York University Heyman Center for Philanthropy & Fundraising; and TMS Ruge, Project Diaspora. The panelists discussed how African women are applying technology to advance Africa’s development. During the discussion, Ebele commented that, “women in Africa are using technology as a platform for their voices.” To join or follow the converstation, #sxsw #faces.

‘We want our cute cats and we want our rights too’


A crisp fall night turned out to be the perfect setting for the 2nd annual Vancouver Human Rights Lecture, co-sponsored by the Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program, The Laurier Institution, the University of British Columbia Continuing Studies and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Speaker Ethan Zuckerman in his lecture “Cute Cats and the Arab Spring: When Social Media Meet Social Change” asked the question ‘if 2011 ends up being the year of revolution, is it possible that social media had something to do with it?’

He questioned the theory that social media had nothing to do with protests and activism in 2011 and the opposing theory that the Internet changes everything – that as soon as you have access to information and to the internet, people will mobilize.

The reality, he stated, is not black and white: social media is not irrelevant, nor is social media responsible for how (or why) people get together and protest; instead social media falls within a complex grey area.

Citing Mohamed Bouazizi and his act of self-immolation as a launch-pad or ‘patient zero’ in the movements that have swept through the Arab world, he noted that social media platforms make it possible for people to create and disseminate information at a low cost.  More importantly, they allow people to contribute to the wider media ecosystem (including traditional media), which can sometimes result in citizens mobilizing beyond a small protest movement to removing a dictatorship from power.

He argued that while the development of encrypted and specialized tools for activists is important, just as effective are the tools that are simple enough for anyone to use. The tools that allow persons to easily share their own content and interests to a wide audience, as in the case of the internet user sharing her pictures of cute cats, becomes an even more potent tool for the person who accidentally stumbles upon activism. That user may be already using the tools, and can now use them to share their concerns and express themselves. These platforms are often difficult for governments to censor.

Ethan challenged the audience to become empowered citizens and netizens of the online world and to call on governments to respect the idea of a networked public sphere where content and information can be shared but also to call on companies to run the private spaces in a manner consistent with freedom of expression and privacy.

Yahoo! recognizes that the Internet is a powerful space for free expression and for this reason is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative comprised of ICT companies, human rights organizations, academics, investors and others. The GNI is a positive and collective step by these stakeholders to work together to challenge censorship and threats to privacy. The group has worked together to establish a code of conduct to guide technology companies in protecting and advancing freedom of expression and privacy across the globe when they encounter laws and policies that interfere with these fundamental human rights.

Over the next year, the Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program will continue to explore how people, and more specifically women, are using social and digital media to support positive change in their communities and around the world. Our Change your World summits start in Cairo on January 18 2012, where, together with Yahoo! Maktoob and in partnership with Vital Voices we will focus on how women across the Middle East and North Africa are using technology, the Internet and various social and digital media platforms to create positive change in the world through four areas: leadership in governance and politics, human rights and social justice, journalism and entrepreneurship.  Join us for Change your World: Cairo 2012. Click here for more information.

To listen to the 2011 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture podcast, please click here or view the lecture video here

Introducing Séverine Arsène, the 2011 Yahoo! International Fellow at Georgetown University


Séverine Arsène is the 2011-2012 Yahoo ! fellow in residence at Georgetown University. Dr. Arsène’s project will explore how different notions of modernity across the globe are contextually based and how these varied representations shape the uses of social media, more specifically, as a tool for online protests.

Séverine Arsène received her Ph.D in political science from Sciences Po Paris. Prior to the Yahoo! fellowship, she was an Assistant lecturer at the University of Lille 3, France in the Department of Information and Communication where she taught courses on information technologies. Arsène  was previously a researcher at Orange Labs (France Telecom R&D) in Paris and curator of the annual seminar of the social sciences department in Beijing.

She also co-organized the first Barcamp Beijing during her tenure with Orange Labs. Her most recent book, to be published in 2011, Internet et politique en Chine (Internet and politics in China) elaborates on the Chinese Internet users’ aspirations for a more “modern” way of life and on how this affects the way they speak out online. Dr. Arsène will continue to develop her research interests of Internet and politics in China and, more generally, media and politics in authoritarian contexts during her fellowship

As Arsène arrives, we bid farewell to Han-Teng Liao, of Taiwan, and thank him for his work exploring the ways that non-English language users in India and China will be represented in the future Internet worlds and providing new insight into the many ways that the fellowship can respond to the challenge of values and free expression in the Internet era. He also produced a case study, draft material for serveral potentional articles, and organized an afternoon seminar to showcase his worl. Han-Teng also brought to Georgetown the Chinese Internet Research Conference, a two-day academic conference that drew 80-100 full time participants.

The fellowship program at Georgetown University was established in 2007, and it supports the education and research activities of an annual Yahoo! Fellow in Residence and tow Junior Yahoo! Fellows. The Yahoo! Fellows come from around the world, from diverse sectors (including corporations, government, academia, and civil society), and are responsible for multi-disciplinary research that explores how diverse international values apply to the development and use of new communications technologies with a focus on Brazil, Russia, India and China. The fellowship is supported by the Yahoo! International Values, Communications, Technology, and Global Internet Fellowship Fund. It supports research on how international values apply to the development and use of new communications technologies.

Introducing Nicole G. Epps, 2011 BHRP Summer Analyst


The BHRP team is excited to have Nicole G. Epps with us as our 2011 Summer Program Analyst. Having worked in both the public and private sectors, Nicole brings a unique perspective from her experiences as a Teach for America corps member, real estate developer for mixed income housing and most recently working to combat international child trafficking. Please read below to learn more about Nicole in her own words.

Nicole at a U.S. Naval Aviation hangar

I am so excited to join Yahoo!’s Business and Human Rights Program (BHRP) and work with such a dynamic group of people who are excited to be a part of the change they hope to see in the world. Yahoo! and BHRP have distinguished themselves as the preeminent leader within the Internet Communication Technology sector, while simultaneously creating a culture that remains committed to promoting free expression and privacy around the world.

Prior to joining the BHRP team, I was a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta, GA and taught second grade. After Teach for America, I worked for a Real Estate Developer of Mixed Income Housing and created Technology Centers, Early Childhood Centers, Vocational Training and Home Ownership Programs for government assisted residents. After earning my MBA, I worked in Private Investment Management before deciding to follow my passion to change the world and be a voice for the silent, primarily children. Currently, I am a graduate student at Johns Hopkins SAIS concentrating in International Law and Middle East Studies. I am also spearheading the first quantifiable study on homelessness and the trafficking of domestic U.S minors. All of these experiences have illustrated to me the importance of working only with those organizations whose mission aligns with my code of ethics and belief system of integrity, loyalty and honesty. Yahoo! is that company.

As a native New Yorker, proud Trinidadian- American, former Georgia peach and Navy brat, I feel honored to have the opportunity to work for an organization that values and actively promotes diversity. I look forward to helping BHRP promote free expression, privacy, human rights and technology globally.

RSS Open Net Initiative

  • Internet Censorship and Control Papers June 19, 2013
    The Berkman Center is pleased to share that Berkman Fellow Hal Roberts and Steven J. Murdoch of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory have edited a collection of papers on Internet Censorship and Control that are now available online as an open access collection at They write, "The In […]
  • Berkman Buzz: July 20, 2012 July 20, 2012
    The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.To subscribe, click here. We are delighted to announce a Call for Papers for The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series (danah boyd and John Palfrey, editors) presented by the Berkman Center and the Born This Way Foundation, and supported by the John D. & […]
  • Berkman Buzz: July 6, 2012 July 6, 2012
    The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.To subscribe, click here. The Berkman Center is hiring! We are now accepting applications for a number of technically-inclined leadership positions. Technology can't improve schools all on its own When it comes to using educational technology in the classroom, it se […]
  • OpenNet Initiative (ONI) Year in Review 2011 April 24, 2012
    The Berkman Center for Internet & Society is pleased to share the OpenNet Initiative (ONI)'s annual roundup of top instances of filtering, surveillance, and information warfare around the globe: 2011 Year in Review 2011 was an eventful year with respect to filtering and surveillance. Among the year's most well-known events are the introduction […]
  • Berkman Buzz: April 6, 2012 April 6, 2012
    The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.To subscribe, click here. Yochai Benkler defends Anonymous in Foreign Affairs Seeing Anonymous primarily as a cybersecurity threat is like analyzing the breadth of the antiwar movement and 1960s counterculture by focusing only on the Weathermen. Anonymous is not an organ […]