Internet opens new frontier in campaign for human rights
Posted Wednesday, October 26 2011 at 19:19
Technology titans and political activists are grappling with how to make social responsibility and human rights part of the fabric of doing business on the Internet.
A Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference ended yesterday in San Francisco after two days of networking and brainstorming regarding how to ensure that the Internet is a tool for human rights instead of a weapon of oppression.
“Today we face a series of challenges to the intersections of human rights, connected technology, and government,” said Michael Posner, US assistant secretary of state for the bureau of democracy, human rights and labour.
“It is a busy intersection and a lot of people want to put up traffic lights,” he continued in a keynote presentation.
The goal of the conference was to collaborate on principles for entrepreneurs to balance pursuit of profit with making sure their creations are used for social good instead of evil.
“Silicon Valley has always been the epicenter of technological innovation,” said conference organiser Brett Solomon.
“But now it is also a digital beacon of hope,” he said. “From the creation of the chip to the writing of the code... we can commit together to make sure the technologies are a force for good.”
Engineers, entrepreneurs, and executives joined with political analysts, activists, and charity groups to delve into the vital role that the Internet plays in social reform.
Sponsors of the gathering include Google, Facebook, Skype, Mozilla and Yahoo!
“I view the Internet as the greatest opportunity to advance human rights in our lifetime,” Facebook vice president of global communication and public policy Elliot Schrage told attendees.
“The Internet gives people a voice, and we need to make sure it stays that way.”
Threats targeted at the conference included Western technology firms cooperating with governments to censor what is shared on the Internet or track down people disliked by authorities.
“The bottom line is: we’re here because of the actions of governments,” Google public policy director Bob Boorstin said.
“It’s not just repressive regimes, but democratic ones too,” he said. “We know more than 40 regimes that are actively blocking content around the world.”
Google on Tuesday updated its online Transparency Report to provide the public with more insights into government requests for information about its users and demands that it remove content from its services.