Technology Companies Address Human Rights Issues

Last week, we attended the Council of PR Firms’ Critical Issues Forum where former press secretary Robert Gibbs delivered the keynote focused on social media and the communications industry. Along the same lines, current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (who we send our condolences to this morning as she mourns the loss of her mother) spoke last week on the West Coast at the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference. In the video above, she addresses the connection between technology and human rights.

The conference website outlines the principles they’d like the tech sector to adopt. Among them: “To ensure innovation and the protection of human rights, internet regulation should only take place where it facilitates the ongoing openness, quality, and integrity of the internet and/or where it enables or protects users’ ability to freely, fully, and safely participate in society.”

The Economist, which was also in attendance, noted Google’s “biannual transparency report” and membership in the Global Network Initiative, one of only three companies (Yahoo and Microsoft are the others) to join.

As evidenced by the e-G8 gathering earlier this year, tech companies know that they have the ears of world leaders. And world leaders, faced with protests around the world, realize the power of digital technologies. Besides lobbying for the right to Internet freedom on their own behalves, tech companies must also be good partners to the everyday users who depend on their services and products.

This new focus on the role of technology in politics, activism, and social change means, more than ever, there’s a new responsibility for technology companies to join other businesses in being good corporate citizens. Digital companies don’t just provide the tools that we use in our daily lives, they are moneymaking powerhouses with influence and the ability to create influencers. It’s a role that tech companies must embrace and use in a positive way starting now.

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