[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) sent a letter today to 26 tech companies, urging them to join a voluntary code of conduct known as the Global Network Initiative (GNI). Recent crackdowns in China and Iran have made the code of conduct, which regulates the actions of technology firms operating in countries that restrict freedom of expression, even more important to the protection of human rights.
Durbin and Coburn, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, held a hearing in May 2008 on the issue of internet freedom and since then have pushed for the establishment and implementation of the tech industry’s code of conduct.
“We recognize and appreciate that information and communications technology (ICT) companies have enabled billions of people around the world to express themselves more fully and freely. Iranian opposition protesters’ use of the internet is one recent, prominent, and inspiring example. At the same time, recent events in China make clear that repressive governments around the world continue to restrict their citizens’ ability to exercise their right to freedom of expression,” the Senators wrote.
“We believe the Global Network Initiative has great potential to advance and protect human rights if member companies fully implement the GNI’s principles and the GNI’s membership is expanded.”
American tech companies now operate in many countries where the internet is censored or where governments use technology as a tool to repress their citizens. The result of these efforts is not only the suppression of freedom of speech, but also too often the persecution and imprisonment of those who violate a state’s strict internet regulations.
Today’s letter urged the companies to sign on to the GNI code of conduct and to work towards its full implementation. Today’s letter was sent to the CEO’s of the following companies: 3Com, Acer, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, eBay, Facebook, Fortinet, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper, Lenovo, McAfee, Motorola, MySpace, Nokia, Nokia-Siemens, Siemens, Skype, Sprint Nextel, Symantec, Toshiba, Twitter, Verizon, Vodaphone, and Websense.
Over the last several weeks, Human Rights and Law Subcommittee staff met with each of these companies to discuss the code of conduct, except for three companies that refused to meet: 3Com, Fortinet, and Websense.