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Last updated: Version 2.3 (Updated May 15, 2018).

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Wednesday, May 16 • 16:00 - 17:00
Documenting ICT companies' impact on civic freedoms & human rights defenders

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When internet, mobile, and telecommunications companies fail to put in place human rights-respecting commitments and policies, their practices may directly or indirectly result in the violation of users’ freedom of expression and privacy rights. These violations in turn intensify the global attack by governments and populist demagogues, and non-state actors, including companies, against human rights defenders and journalists. Highlighting this human impact of company policies and practices is crucial in making the case for why companies must institute—and policymakers should support—policies that foster and reinforce respect for internet users’ rights. Although stories of such violations sometimes make the news, until recently there were no systematic efforts to gather evidence in a way that helps all stakeholders better understand the scale and impact of the abuses and attacks.

This session will examine a) how the digital rights community can work together to improve the way that we document the impact of ICT company policies and practices on freedom of expression and privacy, and b) how improved documentation of cases of negative impact may help stakeholders work with companies and governments to improve grievance and remedy mechanisms for internet users, and specifically human rights defenders, whose rights have been violated.

We will open the workshop with perspectives from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre on the importance and impact of documentation of the roles corporations have played in abuses and attacks on defenders across different sectors. We will then learn about several projects that use different approaches to collect different types of documentation: Global Voices’ newly relaunched Threatened Voices database, built to capture information about incidents of threat AND people who face these threats. Onlinecensorship.org has been running a tool for several years that enables people to report violations connected with companies' terms-of-service enforcement, and has new related project documenting such incidents in the ICT sector that have received media attention. Access Now recently rolled out a network shutdown impact reporting tool that they recently rolled out as part of their “shutdown stories”. We then will brainstorm, with all session participants: a) concrete ways that everyone can collaborate with and use the data generated by these projects, and b) how we can use the evidence gathered by these projects to work with companies to improve grievance and remedy mechanisms, as well as the broader operating environment for civil society.

avatar for Rebecca Mackinnon

Rebecca Mackinnon

Co-founder, Global Voices
Rebecca MacKinnon is an independent writer and researcher. Previously she founded the Ranking Digital Rights project which works to set global standards for how companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and beyond should respect freedom of expression... Read More →

avatar for Ellery Biddle

Ellery Biddle

Advocacy Director, Global Voices
I'm the advocacy director at Global Voices. My job is to support our community in reporting on threats to online speech, sharing tactics for defending the work and words of netizens, and promoting efforts to improve Internet policy and practice worldwide in the interest of human rights... Read More →
avatar for Peter Micek

Peter Micek

General Counsel, Access Now
avatar for Ana Zbona

Ana Zbona

Project Manager, Business, civic freedoms & human rights defenders, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Wednesday May 16, 2018 16:00 - 17:00 EDT