Commentary

Facebook’s Problem with Political Ads - Can Human Rights Due Diligence Help?

Last week, in response to growing public pressure, social media giant Facebook agreed to provide information to U.S. Congressional investigators on advertising purchased by Russian-linked accounts seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential...

28 September 2017

By Scott Jerbi, Senior Advisor, Policy & Outreach, IHRB

Overcoming the “Exit Challenge” - Why We Need New Forms of Social Contract

The #Brexit vote in the UK earlier this year, the rise of extreme populists in many parts of Europe and now the USA all pose a central challenge: How to convince people that complex problems need complex solutions? Building walls, leaving...

12 September 2016

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

The Challenge of Criminalising Hate Speech

This commentary was originally published in the Myanmar Times

Since Myanmar’s landmark election in November 2015, the National League for Democracy government has publicly condemned the use of so-called hate speech on several occasions and...

16 August 2016

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Who You Gonna Call? Troll Busters?

Milo Yiannopoulos is the kind of man who becomes well-known only because of the Internet. An editor at the right-wing website, Breitbart, he has, often been suspended from Twitter, the online micro-blogging site, because of his abusive behaviour...

22 July 2016

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

We are Losing Sight of Why Protecting Privacy is Important for our Security

The UK Government’s Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) is a new and controversial piece of proposed surveillance legislation. The recent review of the IPB by the UK Parliament (the “Second Reading”) offered the first opportunity for MPs to debate its...

18 March 2016

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

What does the UK’s Draft Investigatory Powers Bill mean for ICT companies’ responsibility to respect

The UK government recently published the long-anticipated draft Investigatory Powers Bill, outlining proposed surveillance reforms. 

All sides of the debate broadly agree that UK legislation in this area needs an overhaul, as it does not adequately...

17 November 2015

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

ICTs and Elections: Tackling Network Shutdowns, Hate Speech and Surveillance in Myanmar

Myanmar will hold its much-anticipated general election on November 8th 2015. The Internet will play an important role in these elections.

The country’s ICT sector is developing at speed and there are many ways companies could have a positive...

28 June 2015

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Responsible Business Conduct in Cyberspace

At the Global Conference on CyberSpace held in the Hague in April, I spoke about human rights in the context of development and sales of surveillance technology and software – a fascinating topic that deserves increased attention.

What kind of...

30 April 2015

By Roel Nieuwenkamp

Network Shutdowns in the DRC: ICT Companies Need Clear Rules

Recent events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) involving the government choosing to shut down Internet and SMS services nation wide in response to political unrest and violence are but another example of situations in which ICT...

19 February 2015

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Rights, Safety at Risk Without Lawful Interception Rules

This piece was originally published in The Myanmar Times.

Myanmar is among the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world. However, a key part of Myanmar’s telecommunications legal framework has yet to be finalised: rules governing the...

27 January 2015

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

ICT, Human Rights & Business: A Roundup of 2014 and Challenges for 2015

As 2015 begins, it is that time again to take stock of key developments over the past 12 months in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector and their links to international human rights principles and standards. The ICT sector...

12 January 2015

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

A “New Deal” Between Governments and Tech Companies?

Robert Hannigan, the new Director of one of the UK’s intelligence agencies, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), has taken over at a time when the agency is facing scrutiny on an unprecedented scale in its 100-year history.

GCHQ has been...

06 November 2014

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Government Approval Not Enough, Businesses Need Social License

This article was originally published on YaleGlobal Online

Globalization drives business deals around the globe along with keen new awareness about social, environmental and other consequences of development. Best business practice now demands...

22 October 2014

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Business and Society: Defining the ’Social License’

This article, by IHRB Executive Director John Morrison, was originally published in The Guardian on 29 September 2014.

Business leaders, politicians and civil society set a common direction towards new global agreements on climate change at the UN...

01 October 2014

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

The Challenges and Opportunities of Myanmar’s New ICT Networks

The speed at which Information Communications Technology (ICT) develops is apparent in most countries in the world, but none more so than Myanmar in 2014. The mobile and internet infrastructure is being modernised and expanded rapidly from a...

16 September 2014

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Vodafone’s Transparency Report: Breaking New Ground in the ICT Sector

Last week, UK-based telecom operator Vodafone released its first transparency report as part of the company’s wider 2013-2014 Sustainability Report. It is the latest example of a growing trend among telecommunications companies to explain publicly...

13 June 2014

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Principles, Roadmaps & Recommendations: What’s next for Internet Governance?

The world wide web turns 25 this year, and the year is shaping up to be crucial for the Internet’s future. Concerns over allegations of mass surveillance of digital communications by intelligence services fuelled two recent conferences - NETmundial...

09 May 2014

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Women’s Leadership Can Transform the Way We Do Business in a Climate-Constrained World

This article was originally published in the HuffingtonPost.

As a global community, we find ourselves at a critical juncture. One path -- the "business as usual" route -- sees us approach a drastically warmer world, where our continuing reliance on...

07 May 2014

By Mary Robinson, Patron, IHRB

ICT and Human Rights New Year Review

"The Digital Dangers we identified early in 2013 are clearly still important as we head into 2014. The year ahead may uncover still more difficult dilemmas. Our aim for the Digital Dangers project is to build up a body of research that will shed...

21 January 2014

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

A Letter from the UK: Our Surveillance Debate

This commentary was originally published by the Center for Global Communication Studies

I was recently invited to the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania to present IHRB’s Digital Dangers project on the ICT sector...

27 November 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Governments Must Do More To Tackle Threatening Behaviour Online

The question of how to regulate certain forms of harmful speech in the digital realm without restricting legitimate speech and debate is an on-going controversy that affects every country in the world differently.

What appears to be a global...

02 August 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Freedom Online, Tunisia: Revolution and Revelations

The third Freedom Online conference held recently in Tunisia’s capital city, Tunis, was dominated not by discussion of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, when the Internet contributed to bringing about regime change and sparked the Arab Spring, but instead...

15 July 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Telenor and Ooredoo enter Myanmar

When my colleagues went to Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon in March last year, they found that their smartphones were useless there, since the local telecom operators did not have any arrangement with international carriers. As a result, they...

27 June 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

From Principles to Practice: three new guides support three sectors in respecting human rights

With the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights just passing their second birthday, it is a fitting time for the emergence of more detailed guidance to encourage their implementation.

As a contribution to this objective, last week the...

26 June 2013

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

Telecommunications companies must join the debate on surveillance

In Part I of IHRB’s series analysing NSA data gathering revelations, Salil Tripathi discussed the human rights responsibilities of Internet companies in light of the disclosures regarding Prism. In Part II, Lucy Purdon looks at how Verizon and other...

17 June 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Big Data, Big Government, Big Companies: NSA data gathering raises new questions about corporate res

While Microsoft, Google and Twitter publish transparency reports which show the number of worldwide government requests they receive for user information and content takedown and whether and how they comply, they now admit that those reports do not...

12 June 2013

Surveilling the Stockholm Internet Forum 2013

Are liberty and security contradictory terms, or can they coexist? Was Benjamin Franklin right when he said, back in 1775: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”? Can...

28 May 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

ICT sector transparency reports: How do they help civil society defend freedom of expression

Microsoft is the latest company in the ICT sector to publish a report showing how it complies with requests it receives from law enforcement agencies worldwide to release user data. These are known as ‘transparency reports’ and Microsoft is among...

28 March 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Progress in Corporate Accountability

Last week Human Rights Watch released its 2013 World Report. It includes an essay by Senior Researcher Christopher Albin-Lackey decrying the hard won and widely adopted UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs) as being “woefully...

04 February 2013

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

ICT and human rights: A roundup of 2012 and challenges for 2013

by Lucy Purdon, IHRB Programme Support Manager: ICT

Freedom of expression and privacy, two rights intertwined with the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, were very much in the spotlight in 2012. Balancing the two is not easy,...

22 January 2013

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

What the WCIT could mean for business and human rights

Over the next two weeks at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), members of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will review a treaty called the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) for the first...

04 December 2012

By Dominique Lazanski

Tapping and Phone Hacking in Eastern Europe

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

"Government interference in communications can be extensive and often arbitrary in many countries – including in countries that aren't authoritarian. Governments have interfered by imposing...

09 November 2012

By Lucy Purdon, Policy Officer, Privacy International; Research Fellow, IHRB

Business Reponsibility for its Social Impacts - Moving Beyond CSR

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been based largely on the assumption that the business case always aligns with the societal case as long as enough philanthropy is dispensed. The...

25 June 2012

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Making the Market a Force for Good

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Many companies already understand the important role they play in supporting the wellbeing of communities, but what can be done to ensure social responsibility becomes a key part of corporate...

25 June 2012

By Saba Salmon, Freelance social affairs journalist, commissioning editor and blogger, and regular contributor to Society Guardian

Aung San Suu Kyi Signals Change in Burma, but Investors Should Proceed with Caution

This op-Ed was originally published on Csmonitor.com.

The recent decision by the Obama administration to ease economic sanctions on Myanmar (also known as Burma) presents an important opportunity to reintegrate that country into the international...

19 June 2012

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

What Should Companies do when States Offer Prime Land on a Platter?

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Companies investing in land in Africa and elsewhere need guidelines to ensure the human rights and dignity of local communities are protected

During a recent visit to Kampala, Uganda, we...

06 May 2012

By Wambui Kimathi, Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Uneven Road to Doing Business in Burma

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Foreign businesses face formidable challenges in making sure their investments in Burma are not only profitable but also based on internationally accepted principles

Businesses are...

19 April 2012

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Children’s Rights Finally Getting the Attention they Deserve

This op-Ed was originally published on TheGuardian.com.

Recognition of children as important in the broader human rights and business discussion has been a long time coming

Children's rights are finally getting the attention they deserve on the...

30 March 2012

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

Is the Organisation Investigating Apple’s Factories Good Enough?

This op-Ed was originally published on Forbes.com.

Under pressure, Apple has opened the doors of its troubled Chinese factories to inspection by labor investigators. Now not only Apple but its proposed monitor, the Fair Labor Association, are...

05 March 2012

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB, Christine Bader, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics

Technology companies, free expression and privacy

Apple has come under heavy scrutiny and criticism in recent months for abusive supply chain labour practices. Its decision to join the Fair Labor Association has been hailed as an important step in the right direction: a public commitment to its...

12 February 2012

By Rebecca MacKinnon

Social Media & Human Rights: Keeping the virtual world one step ahead of the real world

"The premise of the virtual world is freedom. Forward-thinking companies, governments, journalists and others with a stake in freedom of expression, as well as the human rights community, must remain vigilant, and work more effectively together to...

12 December 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference: Not your ordinary discussion on business and human rights

Call me an optimist. Over the past decade I have attended several conferences dealing with business and human rights in many parts of the world, and at many places the conversation stays on the ground floor.

Do human rights matter to business? Is...

27 October 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Continuing a Dialogue with Vodafone on Human Rights Due Diligence

Media coverage of last week’s Labour conference speech by Ed Miliband, in which the UK opposition leader criticised “predatory” companies” prompted me to write to the Financial Times with the straightforward but too often forgotten message that even...

06 October 2011

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

Good Companies Can Do Bad Things

This Letter to the Editor was originally published in the Financial Times (subscription needed).

Sir,

We welcome a call for greater corporate responsibility from a UK party leader (Miliband’s business crusade draws fire, September 28) but worry...

29 September 2011

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

How can media companies ensure they live up to their responsibility to respect human rights?

Public outrage in Britain against intrusive journalism has reached boiling point. Disclosures concerning actions taken by the tabloid News of the World alongside new allegations that two newspapers from the same company, the Sun and the Sunday...

13 July 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

The Good, The Ad, and the Ugly: How not to prepare ad campaigns on human rights and business

During its apartheid years, the South African Government imposed several laws, including the Group Areas Act, which segregated populations by race, and required people to carry a pass which identified them by race. Companies provided the technology...

06 June 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Conflict no excuse for business to act irresponsibly

As violence in Libya continues, tens of thousands of people of different nationalities, many of them migrant workers from countries ranging from China to India, Ethiopia to Nigeria, await ferries that can take them to safety across the...

15 March 2011

By Mary Robinson, Patron, IHRB

How Businesses Have Responded in Egypt

Sustained criticism online and from human rights groups has had some effect on Vodafone: the company is listening. Late last week, the company announced that it will not disconnect the accounts of customers in Egypt who are in arrears, and continue...

07 February 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

How should Internet and Phone Companies respond in Egypt?

The explanation Vodafone offered for its decision to switch off its mobile telephone network in Egypt last Friday - that it had no other choice except to comply with the governmental demand - was straight from the text-book. The problem is, human...

01 February 2011

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Responsibility to Respect in the Age of WikiLeaks: Time for Clarity

The controversy over WikiLeaks has raised five separate but interlinked issues from the human rights perspective.

One, the rights of a whistleblower.

Two, the free speech rights of a website publisher.

Three, the responsibility of that website to...

20 December 2010

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Universal Children’s Day - End the Worst Forms of Child Labour

November 20 marks Universal Children’s Day. Established by the United Nations over 50 years ago, it is a day to encourage countries to initiate action to promote the welfare of children. This year Anti-Slavery International is calling upon the...

18 November 2010

By Joanna Ewart-James, Supply Chain Co-ordinator, Anti-Slavery International

Are Current Approaches to Responsible Supply Chain Management Working?

Sustainable or responsible supply chain management (RSCM) emerged in the 1990s as an important part of the corporate responsibility (or corporate social responsibility - CSR) discourse. Over the past two decades, leading corporations have...

12 August 2010

By Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, CEO of GLOBAL CSR

Where is CSR Heading?

The global economic crisis has shaken the manufacturing industry to its core over the last couple of years, and the impact on workers has been palpable around the world.

The economic and social turmoil placed a tremendous responsibility on all of...

21 July 2010

By Auret van Heerden

Checking in on Corporate Human Rights Reporting

At the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) biennial conference last week, one of the sessions was dedicated to “the Future of Human Rights Reporting”. The panelists, drawn from diverse sectors, covered a wide range of issues.

These included the...

31 May 2010

By Elizabeth Umlas, Independent researcher and consultant

Further Steps Taken to Operationalise the Protect Respect and Remedy Framework

On 9 April the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights and business, John Ruggie (the SRSG), issued his 2010 Progress Report [24 pages, 146kb] (the Report) on the operationalisation of the “protect, respect and remedy”...

25 May 2010

By Peter Muchlinski

Putting the Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework into Practice

Last week, the latest report under my mandate as Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on business and human rights was released in advance of the June session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. This is my last interim report before I...

29 April 2010

By John Ruggie, Patron, IHRB

Knowledge of Human Rights Risks - Company Friend or Enemy?

Is knowledge of human rights risks a company’s friend or its enemy? No one likes bad news, and messengers who deliver it may choose to do so gingerly. But it’s critically important for a company to investigate, understand, and act on facts - however...

03 March 2010

By John Sherman, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Small Change - Why Business Won’t Save the World

What’s the best way for business to contribute to realizing human rights? I’ve been pondering that question over the last few days in the light of Google’s decision to oppose censorship and protect the email accounts of activists in China, going so...

19 January 2010

By Michael Edwards

Google China Decision: ‘Remarkable, Courageous, Far-Reaching’

The global Internet giant Google has taken a remarkable, courageous, and far-reaching decision when it said it would stop censoring its search engine in China.

As Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond explained in a candid blog, Google took...

14 January 2010

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Timberland - Business Willing to Engage but a Multi-Stakeholder Effort Needed

IHRB's Executive Director John Morrison wrote a compelling post in late September about the need for rapid scaling of progress on human rights – a view we wholeheartedly share. It has taken us 15 years to get to where we are – to create what can...

30 November 2009

By Jeffrey Swartz, President & CEO, The Timberland Company

Operationalising Human Rights - How Hard are Companies Trying? 

Our commentary on the Trafigura case highlights how a combination of weak governance and business expediency can result in negative impacts on human rights. But what exactly should business do to prevent such situations arising in the first place?

...

29 September 2009

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB