MEPs urge European internet and telecommunication companies to sign Human Rights code

According to a press release we've received from MEP Jules Maaten of the Dutch conservative VVD party, eight Members of the European Parliament called today European internet and telecommunication companies to join The Global Network Initiative and sign the Human Rights code, designed to safeguard human rights and freedom of speech online. The Human Rights code was recently signed by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!

In February 2007, the European Parliament has passed a proposal (571 in favor, 38 against) submitted by MEP, to treat Internet censorship by national governments as a trade barrier.

Brussels, 25 November 2008

MEPs urge Internet and telecommunication companies to sign Human Rights code

Dutch MEP Jules Maaten: “Privacy protection in authoritarian states is a matter of life or death

This morning the Dutch Liberal MEP Jules Maaten has together with seven of his colleagues from all the main political parties sent letters to the main European internet and telecommunication companies to call on them to sign a voluntary human rights code which was recently developed and signed by the American Internet companies Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

Jules Maaten (Netherlands, VVD): “European business must not fall behind in the protection of human rights. They are confronted with the same ethical questions as their American rivals when operating in authoritarian states such as China, Cuba and Tunisia. Innocent European software can be used by authoritarian regimes for oppression and prosecution.

The letters, of which you find a copy [below], have been sent to the CEOs of France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, BT, KPN, Skype, Nokia, Erikson, Eutelsat, Vodafone etc. The letter is signed by Jules Maaten (ALDE), Chistofer Fjellner (EPP), Edward McMillan-Scott (EPP), Paulo Casaca (PSE), Karin Riis Jorgensen (ALDE), Henrik Lax (ALDE), Eva Lichtenberger (Verts) and Frithjof Schmidt (Verts).

The Human Rights code, the Global Network Initiative, was developed in cooperation with human rights organisations and universities agreeing to a set of principles governing how they do business in countries that restrict free speech and privacy rights. In addition to limiting the personal data they share with governments, the companies agreed to assess the human rights climate in a country before they conclude new business deals. They also pledged to respect and protect freedom of expression.

Maaten considers the self regulation of the European internet and telecommunications industry as a welcome first step, but nonetheless would like to see binding legislation adopted. On the 17th of July Jules Maaten proposed together with seven other MEPs the European ‘Global Online Freedom Act’, legislation which protects the Global freedom on the Internet.

Following is a copy of the letter:

Brussels, 25 November 2008

Dear Mr. Lombard,

Recently the US based Internet companies Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft together with human rights groups and investment companies agreed upon a set of principles governing how they do business in countries that restrict free speech and privacy rights. This self regulatory code is called the Global Network Initiative (GNI).
We are counting on you to ensure that the European Internet and Telecommunication Industry also takes part in this dialogue on human rights enable to ensure a free and open Internet. We therefore urge your company to sign up to the GNI agreement. Although we would like to see further binding measures to be taken as for example the adoption of the European Global Online Freedom Act, we consider the GNI code as a welcome first step in ensuring that human rights will also be respected Online.

Yours sincerely,

Jules Maaten (ALDE)

Chistofer Fjellner (EPP)

Edward McMillan-Scott (EPP)

Karin Riis Jørgensen (ALDE)

Henrik Lax (ALDE)

Paulo Casaca (PSE)

Eva Lichtenberger (Verts)

Frithjof Schmidt (Verts)

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