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
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.