Internet Intervention – Rebecca MacKinnon

From GOOD Magazine:

Last year, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google were called to the carpet in Congress for colluding with state censorship and surveillance in China and other less-than-free countries. In response, the three companies recently made a public commitment to develop industry principles that will help them to protect their users’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

They’re not off the hook just yet, but it’s a positive step forward”and it’s a sign that the private-public partnerships pioneered by the labor and environmental movements might also work to protect freedom of expression.

In places where lucrative markets are ruled by authoritarian governments that don’t even pretend to believe in free speech”governments that include political activities, like advocating that the ruling party should be voted out of office, in their definition of “crime””internet and telecom companies have been finding it hard to do the right thing, or even to figure out what the right thing is. [Full Text]

Rebecca MacKinnon is an Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Center. Read also Free speech, privacy, and corporate responsibility: an update by Rebecca, and Statement on the Internet & Human Rights by Jerry Yang, Yahoo! Co-Founder, at Yahoo! Stockholder Meeting, June 12, 2007:

We at Yahoo! understand how important this issue around Internet freedom and human right has become. I wanted to take this opportunity to share Yahoo!’s progress and some of our thoughts on the subject.

Yahoo! is committed to protecting human rights globally. When David Filo and I founded this company, we wanted to expand access to information to improve people’s lives. Yahoo!’s goals have evolved, but they remain grounded in that original idea, and today our mission is to connect people to their passions, their communities and the world’s knowledge.

Global progress in the Internet and media industries depends in significant part on political systems in which access to information and idea exchanges can flourish. We remain deeply concerned about governments that imprison their own citizens for exchanging ideas and expressing political views, especially online. Yahoo! condemns these actions. We join the global Internet community in calling for the release of those imprisoned for expressing their political views online, in particular in places like China. We’ve expressed those views to the Chinese government and to the U.S. government. Over the past year, we’ve met with the U.S. government and outside experts in this field, including as recently as last week when I was with some senior officials at the State Department on the topic of Internet censorship and political dissidents and to ask for the U.S. government’s help. [Full Text]

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