Tech giants pitch human rights platform

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Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all offering Congress their solutions on bringing human rights laws to the internet.

The three companies have issued platforms on how human rights can be extended to the internet and what companies can do to spread those laws.

The code would center around a set of basic principles for which companies would be required to adhere to, along with guidelines on how those rights would be assured and frameworks for how to enforce the rules and ensure accountability.

The reports were issued in response to inquiries sent to each of the companies by US senator Richard Durbin in July. The senator asked each of the firms to provide suggestions for a human rights code for corporations.

The code is designed as a way for tech companies to work with governments, both in the US and abroad, while still respecting human rights and preventing information from being used to violate rights.

The subject is of special importance to Yahoo. The company is still trying to recover from an embarrassing incident regarding one of its Chinese branches. That office provided China with user information that was then used by the government to track down and jail dissident bloggers.

The incident drew sharp criticism of Yahoo from human rights groups and eventually lead to executives being called before Congress and scolded for their role in the incident.

General counsel Michael Samway acknowledged in a blog posting that the incident is still on Yahoo's mind, but a larger picture was also being addressed.

"We’ve all also worked carefully in crafting the principles, implementation guidelines, and accountability and learning framework to be sure this isn’t a code pointing at or strictly about China," wrote Samway.

"This is much broader, as it should be. We are in agreement across companies and human rights organizations that this initiative will be global in scope."
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