Every Breath You Take: Human Rights Implications of Geolocation

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

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.

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Collaborating on Telecommunications and Human Rights


on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

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.

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

By Claudia Calvin

on Friday, September 28th, 2012

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.

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Women, Technology, and Social Media

By Jamie

on Monday, July 2nd, 2012

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 Change.org
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 Change.org, 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 Change.org 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 Change.org 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 change.org/cannes — The 2012 Cannes film festival has 22 finalists. … None of them are women.


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Change Your World DC!!

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

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 Change.org. 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.

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By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

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!

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Yahoo! Supports March 2012 Draft of GOFA


on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The BHRP is pleased to report Yahoo!’s support of the March 2012 draft of the  Global Online Freedom Act. Please see below for the text of Yahoo!’s letter to Representative Chris Smith:

Yahoo! is pleased to offer our support to the most recent draft of the Global Online Freedom Act.  We are grateful for your tireless efforts in working with us, human rights groups, academics and others to craft a reasoned, meaningful effort that will push all online companies to responsible engagement in countries around the world.  In particular, the safe harbor in the bill for companies that join efforts like the Global Network Initiative (GNI) will go a long way to encouraging a wider group of companies to join us in efforts to develop responsible industry practices.  Yahoo! is a co-founding member GNI (www.globalnetworkinitiative.org), and has recently participated in the first ever third-party assessment of company implementation of GNI’s principles, which GNI will feature in its annual report in April of 2012.

Issues of online freedom, privacy and responsibility are not easy.  This past year has shown us the incredible power of the Internet to foster freedom, democracy and openness across the globe.  And the Arab Spring was just one example of citizens using online tools to communicate with each other, learn, and organize.  But with that great potential comes significant risks that cannot be ignored – risks, for instance, that governments will seek to turn the incredible positive power of the Internet against those same citizens.  Internet companies have seen these risks firsthand, and Yahoo! has worked hard to minimize risks to our users as we enter new markets or make decisions about our business operations.

Yahoo! cares deeply about these issues, and has spent the last five years building a robust program to integrate human rights decision-making into our business operations. Yahoo!’s Business & Human Rights Program (BHRP) implements its mission through a number of core initiatives, including:

·       Developing an accountability framework, designed to assess Yahoo!’s performance in meeting Yahoo!’s overall goals and operational steps relating to human rights issues;

·       Developing guiding principles and operational guidelines, as well as employee training, which translate Yahoo!’s support for freedom of expression and user privacy into practical steps to be followed by employees;

·       Conducting Human Rights Impact Assessments, which examine the human rights landscape in prospective markets, evaluate challenges to free expression and privacy that might result from the proposed offering of services, and offer strategic approaches to protect the rights of Yahoo!’s users;

·       Fostering internal and external stakeholder engagement with users, employees, civil society groups, government and shareholders to address the complex issues at the intersection of human rights and ICT;

·       Creating a website and an e-mail alias to inform internal and external stakeholders about Yahoo!’s human rights initiatives and to elicit their feedback (http://humanrights.yahoo.com/ and bhrp@yahoo-inc.com);

·       Launching and hosting the Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Summit (http://ycorpblog.com/2009/05/07/a-summit-for-human-rights), a stakeholder shared-learning forum about technology and free expression.  (http://www.yhumanrightsblog.com/blog/our-initiatives/business-human-rights-summit/);

·       Joining the Clinton Global Initiative and developing a commitment aligned with promoting and supporting free expression;

·       Launching the Change Your World series in Cairo, an event created to shine the light on extraordinary women who are creating positive change in the world and identify areas where companies can use their technology and platforms to amplify women’s voices. Yahoo! will host a Change Your World event in Washington DC on May 18, 2012, as well as an event in Brazil in November of 2012.

Our sincere hope is that other companies join us in these efforts, as we have found that good business and responsible behavior are not mutually exclusive at all.  Indeed, we believe that dialogue between companies and civil society organizations can help us better understand how to do our jobs the right
way – for us, and for our users.

We very much look forward to continuing to work with you on this important effort, and we again thank you for the thoughtful and balanced approach in this legislation.

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Liz Ngonzi’s Storify re: SXSW Africa, Tech and Women Panel


on Sunday, March 18th, 2012

See here for Liz Ngonzi’s most excellent Storify covering SXSW’s Africa, Tech and Women Panel.


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Yahoo! Talks Human Rights at SXSW

By Amber

on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

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.

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Heba Abu Shehadeh, on Change Your World Cairo


on Monday, February 20th, 2012

A day before Yahoo! “Change Your World” summit, I landed at Cairo airport with so much enthusiasm to the big day, the inspirational journey started from the airport and never ended till this moment, my first inspiration was the Egyptian people, women and men, who believed in their power, carried out an unarmed revolution with high determination to change their present and build their own future!  … the second one was Fida, one of the speakers that I met when I reached the hotel, she lives in Ramallah-Palestine, her secret ingredients to her success are social media and the mind power, she is now a social media expert and the only woman webmaster in Palestine, she told me that her life is like a nonstop mission full of challenges, but that never stopped her to build her own world and to help in making a positive difference in people’s lives… and the journey continued!

In the day of the summit, many courageous digital leaders and powerful women were onboard, from around the world and specially Middle East and North Africa who played role in their countries’ revolutions and others who let their voice been heard with simple use of technology and through social media, more amazing women were their too from journalism, entrepreneurship, politics, human rights and security to participate in the panels and to be part of the audience.  Ebele Okobi, Ahmed Nassef and Mona El Tahawy had powerfully expressed their believes in the power of change and empowering women through technology and freedom of expression… “Women are power of change” Ahmed stated in his opening speech… and that was enough to have great start of the summit.

The sessions were away from theories and were full of inspiring and powerful real women’s’ stories and challenges. Manal Al Sherif, a Saudi blogger and women’s rights activist, was jailed for 9 days for breaking the rules and defying the ban on woman driving in KSA, couldn’t hold my tears from falling when she started telling the audience with strong emotions about the story behind Aisha, another Saudi woman that she was inspired by. Manal said “We drove and posted videos of ourselves driving to break the wall of fear”. Another powerful stories were told by Danya Bashir a 20-years old Libyan blogger, “the next president of Libya” as she says on her twitter profile, she courageously advocates for her country and the people, she said “Women shape 57% of the Libyan population” and proudly mentioned that “Women played a very important role in the Libyan revolution”, Danya believes that “Once we empower ourselves we can empower the world”.

Dalia Ziada, award winning blogger and women rights activist from Egypt, she is one of the most powerful women and a role model for many women in her country and the region, she sees that women still can’t speak out and up freely, she strongly encourages women in Egypt to be organized and well communicated and also to have more participation in the parliament, as she said that “Women shape up only 1% of the Egyptian parliament now”… Lamees Dhaif, a speaker who surprised us with strong thoughts and statements once she started speaking! She is a media figure and social media activist from Bahrain, she was proud to compare that the most powerful newspaper in her country which publish around 12,000 copies daily, to her number of her followers on twitter that is almost three times higher. She encourages all women to use the power of social media because “social media is a tool to voice your voice” as she said.

And the inspiring stories have never ended throughout the sessions from truly exceptional leaders …

I had the privilege to participate in the last panel as one of the speakers, it was titled “What’s Next?”,  in it we continued the conversations and tied together the themes of all panels to share our thoughts around what’s really next?, and how technology can better help and serve our societies, I believe that technology is becoming an essential part of our life, so we should not limit its usage only to access information, moreover it should be a tool to communicate and innovate, and that will happen with more relevant platforms that allow online users to build their own world and to express their identity freely. I shared some success storied from Y! Maktoob forums specially from Al-Frasha and Majdah forums for women who believe that technology and social platforms helped them to build relationships, to grow their knowledge, improve their skills and better communicate their thoughts while many of them live in societies where women don’t have much space to express and be active members.

We need to make the web more human with our presence and participation, and to increase the existing 2% of Arabic content on the web to reach more people in the Arab world.


For more information about the summit, panels and panelist please check out the agenda.



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