The Global Network Initiative

GNI Banner Photo Yahoo was founded on the principle that promoting access to information can improve people’s lives and enhance their relationship with the world around them.  We believe in the Internet’s transformative power and in the value of bringing that power to people and markets around the world.  As a company, we believe in engagement.  We also know that we, along with all companies in our industry, have a responsibility to engage responsibly. As a result of this knowledge, Yahoo chose to be a founding member of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), beginning at its inception in 2006.  Yahoo has taken a leadership role in the GNI – an international group of information and communications technology (ICT) companies, human rights organizations, academics, investors and others.  Yahoo has joined this diverse group because we believe that collective solutions will best address the challenges we and other companies face when bringing transformative communications technologies to countries that seek to restrict privacy and free expression.

GNI Principles, Implementation Guidelines and Accountability Framework

The GNI has created Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, which are supported by Implementation Guidelines and a Governance, Accountability and Learning Framework.  The principles provide a systematic approach for companies, NGOs, investors, academics and others to work together to understand and address the complex challenges we face.  The GNI's work is grounded in the internationally recognized laws and standards for human rights on freedom of expression and privacy set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”), the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”). Pursuant to the Governance, Accountability and Learning Framework, Yahoo has created and adopted internal policies and procedures necessary to implement the GNI’s Principles. 
Responsible Company Decision Making
Yahoo established a dedicated Business & Human Rights Program (BHRP) in order to lead the company’s efforts to make responsible decisions in the areas of free expression and privacy.  A full-time core team, including senior level employees, guides, directs and manages the BHRP.   In order to ensure that key business and functional partners are fully informed of Yahoo’s implementation of the Principles, Guidelines and Accountability Framework, and in order to disseminate policies and procedures created by the BHRP, we have also created a virtual team.   The global virtual team is comprised of diverse senior-level employees across the organization.  Additionally, the BHRP conducts employee trainings and in-depth reviews with selected employees and teams.   These trainings ensure that employees who have responsibility for content moderation and/or who have access to user data in the performance of their duties at Yahoo understand Yahoo’s commitment to free expression and privacy, and follow policies and procedures that safeguard the rights of our users.    The BHRP also employs human rights impact assessments to identify circumstances when freedom of expression and privacy may be jeopardized or advanced.  Our HRIA process provides the context and the guidance that we use to identify potential risks and to develop appropriate risk mitigation strategies.  For more information about our human rights impact assessments click here.
Free Expression and Privacy
Yahoo balances our GNI commitments regarding user privacy and free expression with our public responsibility and legal obligations.  Yahoo has created policies for government demands for user data and content moderation, that are aligned with our GNI commitments, including:
  •  Government demands must be in writing; with the exception of where the law permits verbal demands, and in cases of emergency;
  • Government demands must be made by authorized officials;
  • Law enforcement employees, legal staff, customer care agents and other Yahoo employees who receive government demands should escalate potential human rights issues to the BHRP;
  • Disclosures in response to otherwise valid demands should only be made when and where required by applicable law;
  • Government demands will be carefully reviewed to determine the appropriate scope of data to be provided and will be interpreted narrowly in an effort to produce user data only as necessary to comply with the demand;
  • Employees with access to personally identifiable user data are obligated to protect that data from unauthorized internal access or use; and
  • Employees who handle personally identifiable data and those who respond to demands to moderate user-generated content will follow internal policies that promote user privacy and freedom of expression in a manner that is consistent with the Yahoo Terms of Service, Community Guidelines and Privacy Policy.
At Yahoo, we take user privacy seriously and appreciate our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business. In September 2013, we issued our first global law enforcement transparency report, which details government requests for user data from January 1, 2013, through June 30, 2013. For more information on our transparency report, including how we approach government data requests, please visit here.
Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration and Engagement
Yahoo recognizes our responsibility to engage with multiple stakeholders in order to promote rule of law and the reform of laws, policies and practices that infringe on freedom of expression and privacy.  To that end, we have taken a number of steps, including:
  • Active engagement with governments and agencies around the world to encourage a shared understanding of the power of the Internet, media and information to inspire, inform and create positive change, promote free expression and privacy in the ICT sector and to discuss GNI’s aims. We also strive to create a shared understanding of the negative impact of laws that do not protect the rights to free expression and privacy.
  • Active engagement with a number of NGO’s and other organizations, both inside and outside of GNI, to discuss options for working together to address issues of free expression and privacy in the ICT sector.

To Learn More

For more about the GNI, including details about the principles, implementation guidelines and the accountability and learning framework, please visit GNI's website.