GNI Learning Forum 2012: Rights, practices and expression on the Internet

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The Global Network Initiative hosted its first Learning Forum in Washington DC on June 14, 2012. The discussion centred on safeguarding human rights, privacy and freedom of expression on the Internet. The other very interesting focus of discussion was on practices by businesses and Internet companies, and the engagement between them and governments where user data is concerned.

Learning Forum 2012 boasted a great line-up of speakers with considerable experience and expertise in their respective fields (see below or go here):

Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, Centre for Internet & Society (via videoconference)

Dan Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State

Bob Boorstin, Director, Public Policy, Google

Jermyn Brooks, Independent Chair, Global Network Initiative

Ian Brown, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Internet Institute

Emily Butselaar, Online Editor, Index on Censorship (via videoconference)

Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments

Leslie Harris, President and CEO, Center for Democracy and Technology

Rebecca Mackinnon, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation

Mike Newman, Chief Financial Officer, Websense

Sara Nordbrand, Sustainable Investment-Corporate Engagement, Church of Sweden

Ebele Okobi, Director, Business and Human Rights Program, Yahoo!

Meg Roggensack, Senior Advisor, Business & Human Rights, Human Rights First

Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Moderator
John Kampfner, GNI European Advisor and former Chief Executive, Index on Censorship

The Learning Forum started with an introductory note by Susan Morgan, (Executive Director, GNI). The proceedings of the day were broken down into three sessions with an interactive Q&A session at the end of every panel discussion . The first was titled Digital Freedoms in International Law: Practical Steps to Protect Human Rights Online. Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute presented a report co-authored by him and Douwe Korff from London Metropolitan University. This was followed by a discussion between Dan Baer (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State), Bob Boorstin (Director, Public Policy, Google), Jillian York (Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Sunil Abraham (Executive Director, Centre for Internet & Society [via videoconference]). The recording of this session can be viewed here: GNI Learning Forum 2012 – Session 1.

The second session focused on Policy Engagement on Business and Human Rights in the ICT Sector. Mike Newman (Chief Financial Officer at Websense) spoke about the stand they took against Pakistan’s Internet Filtration by making a public statement that Websense would not bid for the project. Other speakers, Emily Butselaar (Online Editor, Index on Censorship [via videoconference]), Sara Norband (Sustainable Investment-Corporate Engagement, Church of Sweden) and Meg Roggensack (Senior Advisor, Business & Human Rights, Human Rights First) discussed other country-specific issues and how they’ve been dealt with.

The third and final session began with a video message by Marietje Schaake, Dutch Member of European Parliament (D66/ALDE Group) after which GNI Board Members Ebele Okobi (Director, Business and Human Rights Program, Yahoo!), Bennett Freeman (Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments), Leslie Harris (President and CEO, Center for Democracy and Technology), Rebecca MacKinnon (Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation) gave their remarks on the day’s discussion and the way forward. The day came to an end with a concluding note by Jermyn Brooks, Independent Chair, GNI.

See also #GNI2012 for tweets by attendees during the session and questions that were sent in.  You can also find a lot of the speakers on Twitter.
Director at Bolo Bhi
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based, APNS-awardwinning journalist. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi. She has a masters in English literature. She worked with Newsline from July 2007-January 2012 and taught literature to grades 9-12. She served as an amicus curiae in a case filed in the Lahore High Court in 2013, challenging the ban on YouTube, and is currently a petitioner on behalf of Bolo Bhi in a case filed in the Islamabad High Court challenging government's censorship on the Internet and the powers of the regulator. When she is not raging over Internet censorship or poor Internet connectivity, she chooses to turn to cricket, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and qawwalis for sanity.

She can be found on Twitter: @FariehaAziz and reached via email: farieha@bolobhi.org
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