ON-Lion Letter
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is actively monitoring developments regarding the Chinese government's directive that requires computer manufacturers to install the Green Dam/Youth Escort content control software on personal computers produced or sold in China.  The directive is ostensibly intended to protect children from sexually explicit content, but in fact raises significant challenges for companies in the technology sector that also have a responsibility to respect human rights. 

GNI, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, offers a multi-stakeholder forum that provides operational guidance and a credible system for companies to develop effective strategies in response to these challenges.  The initiative is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

Protection of children from exploitation and exposure to inappropriate material online is a legitimate public policy goal, GNI believes, which many countries around the world pursue.  This goal can be achieved in ways consistent with international norms, though,  protecting the rights to freedom of expression and privacy -- for example, public education regarding the availability of a wide variety of user-controlled filtering tools that allow parents and guardians to manage unwanted content in a way that is most appropriate for children under their care.  Various companies –- including company members of GNI –- and other organizations offer a wide range of such software tools. 

However, the Chinese government's overbearing and far-reaching mandate to pre-load the Green Dam/Youth Escort software on all personal computers produced and sold there clearly raises human-rights concerns that the information and communications technology (ICT) sector must address.  The GNI Principles are grounded in international human-rights standards for freedom of expression and privacy.  Under these standards, the right to freedom of expression should not be restricted by governments except in narrowly defined circumstances, consistent with international human rights norms and the rule of law.  Importantly, such restrictions should be necessary and proportionate for the relevant purpose.

Much about how the Green Dam/Youth Escort software functions in practice is yet to be determined and several GNI members are undertaking such an analysis.  However, a number of facts about the software have been established that raise serious human-rights concerns.  GNI is helping to raise, and helping ICT companies deal with, them.
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |