Posts Tagged ‘Yahoo! BHRP’

Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Summit, May 4!

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

On Tuesday, May 4, Yahoo! will be hosting our second annual Business & Human Rights Summit! The Summit will feature experts from the business, academic, journalist, human rights and advocacy communities – each with a unique perspective but united in a common desire to address the complex threats to free expression and user privacy.

Panels include a discussion about Governments, Technology and Human Rights, in which panelists including Sarah Labowitz of the U.S. State Department and Christine Bader, Advisor to the UN Special Representative for Business & Human Rights, and Kum Hong Siew, former member of parliament, Singapore will discuss various approaches to addressing free expression and privacy rights in the Internet, Technology and Communications (ICT) sector.

Another panel, entitled Technological Solutions to Free Expression and Privacy Issues, will address innovative solutions targeted at evading government restrictions on free expression and privacy.   Panelists include Evgeny Morozov, Yahoo!’s 2010 Georgetown Fellow and contributing editor to Foreign Policy; Andrew Lewman of the Tor Project; Kathleen Reen of Internews and Alan Huang of UltraFree Internet.

We will also feature a panel about the intersection between social media and social change, in which journalists, bloggers, social entrepreneurs and film-makers will hold a discussion about the role of media and technology as a platform for free expression and social change, and shared innovative methods of amplifying voices from around the world.  Panelists include Abbas Gassem, Founder and Editor, Inside SomaliaSameer Padania, Hub Manager,; Nadia Trinidad, Yahoo! Stanford Fellow and senior correspondent, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Company, Manila, Philippines, Elia Serra, co-founder and director of Maneno, and Omid Memarian, UC Berkeley Rotary Peace Fellow and Iranian journalist and blogger.

Finally, we will also have a fascinating discussion about Unconventional Threats to Online Privacy and Free Expression, during which we will learn about how issues like account deactivation and terms of service violations can have unintended chilling effects on privacy and free expression. Panelists for that discussion include Dr. Mehdi Yahyanejad, founder and editor of, Kim Pham of AccessNow, and Danny O’Brien of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

For more information about the Summit, please see here. For those of you can’t make it to Sunnyvale to join us, we will be posting video shortly after the event, so please stay tuned!

Yahoo! Celebrates World Press Freedom Day

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

On Monday, May 3, Yahoo! will celebrate World Press Freedom Day. Go to on May 3, click on the icon on the Yahoo! logo at the top of the page, and you’ll be linked to a site with information about the history of World Press Freedom Day, profiles of journalists from around the world, and information about a few organizations that are working to keep access to information free and open around the world. You can also learn about events like Yahoo!’s second annual Business & Human Rights Summit on May 4, and about Global Voices Online’s Summit in Chile, on May 6-7.

Mark your calendar, and check it out on Monday!

That’s Right: Yahoo! in Berlin

By Jen Swallow | Legal Director EMEA | Product Compliance

Jen Swallow at Berlin UN Consultation lfer1As the final touches were being put to Hillary Clinton’s speech on Internet freedoms, a rich discussion on human rights was hotting up in Berlin.  National and international representatives of industry, commerce, politics, civil society and academia had come together at the ‘That’s Right’ conference to exchange views and ideas on the topic of corporate responsibility for human rights.  Yahoo!’s BHRP was thrilled to contribute.

Hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the event was led by Professor John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative for human rights and trans-national corporations, who held a lively ‘town hall’ meeting in the morning, giving participants an opportunity to engage in direct dialogue on the practical implementation of his policy framework: Protect, Respect, Remedy.  Later in the day, the Special Representative praised the Global Network Initiative, which Yahoo! co-founded, and called for European ICT companies to sign up as members.

Yahoo!’s BHRP participated alongside Microsoft and Google in a panel session in the afternoon on the topic of “which approaches can be taken when national legislation is incompatible with internationally recognised human rights”.  After keynotes from the highly respected speakers Lene Wendland, Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Colin Maclay of the Berkman Center and Sharon Hom of Human Rights in China, the companies shared their experiences and approach to addressing the challenges of incompatibility between national laws and human rights.

I outlined how Yahoo!’s BHRP is integrating human rights issues into the way we make business decisions across our organisation and gave some examples of how that integration has already paid dividends for the promotion of free expression and privacy, e.g. our human rights impact assessment in Vietnam, which resulted in our decision to manage and operate Yahoo!’s Vietnamese language services out of Singapore so the services would be governed by laws with stronger protections than in Vietnam today.

I also contended that it would be a mistake to focus only on countries with a poor record on human rights, as is illustrated by a recent Belgian court judgment against Yahoo!, and that such cases show the importance of implementing practices, such as those recommended by the GNI, consistently, throughout an organization, not just vis-à-vis certain countries.

The panel took questions ranging from Google’s recent China announcement, to the practical difficulties of respecting local content standards in the context of global products such as YouTube and Flickr, to the question of corporate accountability, which panel member Alexis Krajeski of F&C Management Ltd. explained was an important focus area for the GNI.

It was a privilege to contribute to the debate and to have the opportunity to learn and share ideas.  Yahoo!’s BHRP looks forward to continued efforts on these topics and to a positive outcome of the Special Representative’s mandate.

To share your views, please comment below, or join the debate on the Special Representative’s forum, at

by Jen Swallow| Legal Director EMEA | Product Compliance

Introducing Evgeny Morozov, Our Newest Yahoo! Fellow at Georgetown

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

Evgeny Morozov

I’m thrilled to introduce Evgeny Morozov, our 2009-2010 Yahoo! Fellow at Georgetown University.

Evgeny is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy and runs the magazine’s influential and widely-quoted “Net Effect” blog about the Internet’s impact on global politics.  Prior to his Yahoo! Fellowship, he was a fellow at George Soros’s Open Society Institute, where he remains on the board of the Information Program (one of the leading and most experimental funders for technology projects that have an impact on open society and human rights). Before moving to the US, Evgeny was based in Berlin and Prague, where he was Director of New Media at Transitions Online, a media development NGO active in 29 countries of the former Soviet bloc. Evgeny’s work has appeared in The Economist, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, Slate, Le Monde, The San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Review, Foreign Policy, Project Syndicate, Dissent and many other publications. He has appeared on CNN, CBS, SkyNews, CBC, Al Jazeera International, France 24, Reuters TV, NPR, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.

Here is what Evgeny is working on, in his own words:

“The rapid spread of new communications technologies around the globe promised a new age of politics, where citizens would be able to educate themselves about important political issues of the day, form ad-hoc groups about the most important such issues, and use new media to strategically challenge the power of their governments. This was a very appealing narrative, because it also matched the rapid spread of freedom and democracy across the world, particularly in the 1990s.

Looking at some of these early predictions – about the end of nationalism or the demise of the nation state or the global triumph of Web-powered freedom – one easily detects the naiveté that underlined much of our thinking on these issues. As it turns out, conventional (and often brutal) politics still matters, even in the age of easy mobilization dominated by blogs and social networking.

In my own research – including my one year at Georgetown on a Yahoo fellowship – I’m focusing on how governments – especially those that are not particularly famous for their respect for democracy and human rights – have been adapting to the digital threat posed by this new era and minimizing the democratizing effects of these new technologies. Comparing the approaches in China, Russia, much of the Middle East, I came to see that the governments – and groups and networks affiliated with/ and supportive of what they do – have made a remarkable use of the very same technologies that have become favorite tools of the activists and NGOs. Similarly, many of the new public spheres that formed in digital spaces have also been receptive to numerous nationalist and extremist ideas that were not very conducive to deliberative democracy. How do we still promote activities of the “virtual civil societies” without empowering its enemies, who are sometimes even more dangerous than the authoritarian governments themselves? Were we too quick to assume that promoting democracy and freedom – as well as engaging in public diplomacy – would necessarily become easier and quicker in this new digital age?

These are some of the questions that I’m asking in my research and various events at Georgetown and that I’ll be discussing in my upcoming book about the Internet and democracy (to be published by PublicAffairs in late 2010).”

We are looking forward to bringing Evgeny to Yahoo!’s campus early next year to talk about his work. Congratulations, Evgeny!

Yahoo! at the UN

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

Ebele at the UN

Victor Ricco | CEDHA

In October, Yahoo!’s BHRP had the honor of participating in the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ consultation on business and human rights in Geneva.  The consultation was presented by Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises,  John Ruggie, and chaired by the Ambassadors of Norway and Nigeria. More than 300 representatives from UN member states, human rights organizations, civil society, academia and business attended.

The Special Representative has the monumental task of defining the responsibilities companies should have in protecting human rights around the world. He began by creating a policy framework based on three principles:

  1. The State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business;
  2. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and
  3. The need for greater access by victims to effective remedies.

The Special Representative will complete his mandate by translating the policy framework into specific actions that companies and nations should take to protect human rights, and the consultation was an opportunity for people and organizations to give their ideas and views about what the final product should include.

To learn more about the policy framework, go to:

I had the privilege of representing Yahoo! on a panel about the second principle, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. I was asked to discuss the dilemmas companies like Yahoo! face when certain aspects of local laws, or their implementation, may conflict with international human rights norms, and to give recommendations on what the Special Representative should consider when developing specific guidelines for companies.

I talked about the power of technology and how access to the Internet is often even more important in countries that restrict free expression. I talked about the difficult choices companies face and how requiring information and technology companies to refrain from offering products and services in countries that restrict free expression can actually punish the citizens in those countries who rely on technology to communicate and connect with the outside world. I also asked the Special Representative to consider how the framework can show support for solutions like the GNI that draw upon the combined wisdom of companies, non-profits, academics, users and others.

To read the full text of my remarks, see here.

I learned a great deal from my co-panelists, including human rights giants like Jody Kollapen (former Chair of the South Africa Human Rights Commission, who represented Stephen Biko and who helped create the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission), Auret van Heerden (President and CEO of the Fair Labor Association and former exile from the apartheid-era South African government) and Salvador Quishpe, who represented the indigenous Saraguro community of Ecuador. I’m honored to have represented Yahoo!, and the BHRP looks forward to learning more about the progress of the Special Representative’s mandate, and to future conversations with these and other stakeholders.

Iran Stories

By Michael Samway | VP & Deputy General Counsel

UPDATE: ZDNet has retracted its story.

Yahoo! is committed to protecting the free expression and privacy rights of our users, so we are concerned by the misleading and incorrect statements in an article posted on regarding Yahoo! and Iran.

The allegations in the story are false. Neither Yahoo! nor any Yahoo! representative has met with or communicated with Iranian officials regarding the matters referenced in the article, and Yahoo! has not disclosed user data to the Iranian government. The ZDnet article makes other inaccurate assertions. We don’t have a Yahoo! Iran website, as the article suggests. We don’t have employees in Iran either. And while we have a website targeted at users in Malaysia, we don’t have operations or officials there, also wrongly asserted in the article.

The power of the Internet means that information travels quickly, including claims that are false. We’re disappointed in this case that we weren’t given a chance to comment on the allegations before the story went live. We are, however, pleased that ZDnet’s editor has now said the report on which the article was based is considered unreliable. We intend to continue to demonstrate, through our actions, our deep commitment to protecting our users’ rights to free expression and privacy. Yahoo! was founded on the principle that access to information and to communications tools can improve people’s lives, and Yahoo! is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and privacy around the globe, including in Iran.

To learn more about our human rights efforts, please visit our website, at

by Michael Samway, VP & Deputy General Counsel

A little more conversation

By Ebele Okobi | Global Head, Yahoo! BHRP

Taking Time to Answer Questions Hoyasmeg

James Emery | Flickr Creative Commons

Hello, and welcome to the Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Program blog! For the past few years, Yahoo! has been focused upon how to address the fact that our business increasingly intersects with human rights issues around the world, specifically user privacy and free expression on the Internet. We know that we have a responsibility, like all companies, to act responsibly in the communities in which we operate, and we have taken action, including funding academic fellowships, creating the Yahoo! Human Rights Fund, engaging with governments, and helping to co-found the Global Network Initiative.

You can read more about our initiatives on our website, at

At Yahoo!, we believe that access to information improves lives and advances human rights around the world. We also know that with almost half a billion users around the word, we have an opportunity to raise awareness about free expression and user privacy.  The issues at the intersection of technology and human rights are complex, and we believe that we can only benefit from transparency and an open exchange of ideas with engaged and informed people around the world.

With this blog, we are hoping to start a conversation. Will you join us?

by Ebele Okobi-Harris |  Director, Business & Human Rights Program

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
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  • Berkman Buzz: July 6, 2012 July 6, 2012
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  • 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 […]