The GNI Principles

The GNI created Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, which are supported by Implementation Guidelines and a Governance, Accountability and Learning Framework. The GNI provides a systematic approach for companies, NGOs, investors, academics, and others to work together to understand and address the complex challenges we face at the intersection of technology, privacy, and freedom of expression.

The GNI’s work is grounded in the internationally recognized laws and standards for human rights on freedom of expression and privacy set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”).

Responsible decision-making in practice

Oath has created and adopted internal policies and procedures necessary to implement the GNI Principles.

The Business and Human Rights Program (BHRP) leads the company’s efforts to make responsible decisions in the areas of free expression and privacy. A full-time core team consisting of senior-level employees guides, directs, and manages the BHRP. Oath’s human rights team is under the remit of Oath’s General Counsel. The Corporate Governance and Policy Committee of the Verizon Board of Directors receives periodic updates on information about global human rights risks and opportunities related to Oath.

The BHRP’s work is supported by a global virtual team comprised of diverse senior-level employees across the organization. We rely on this team to disseminate our policies and procedures and ensure that key business and functional partners are fully informed of Oath’s implementation of the Principles, Guidelines, and Accountability Framework.

The BHRP conducts employee trainings and in-depth information sharing sessions with employees and teams across the company. These sessions ensure that employees responsible for content moderation, who have access to user data in the performance of their duties, or who set policies for management of user data understand Oath’s commitment to free expression and privacy and follow policies and procedures that safeguard the rights of our users.

The BHRP performs human rights impact assessments (HRIA) to identify circumstances when freedom of expression and privacy may be jeopardized or advanced. Our HRIA process provides context and guidance to identify potential risks and develop appropriate risk mitigation strategies. For more information about our HRIA process, click here.

Respecting Free Expression and Privacy

Oath balances our GNI commitments regarding user privacy and free expression with our public responsibility and legal obligations. Oath published its Global Principles for Responding to Government Requests and created policies for government demands for user data and content moderation that are aligned with our GNI commitments, including:

  • Government demands must be in writing; with the exception of where the law permits verbal demands
  • Government demands must be made by authorized officials
  • Legal staff, customer care agents and other Oath employees who receive government demands should escalate potential human rights issues to the BHRP
  • Disclosures in response to otherwise valid demands should only be made when and where required by applicable law or in cases of emergency
  • Government demands for user data and content removal will be handled consistent with our Global Principles for Responding to Government Requests
  • Employees with access to personally identifiable user data are obligated to protect that data from unauthorized internal access or use
  • Employees who handle personally identifiable data and those who respond to demands to moderate user-generated content will follow internal policies that promote user privacy and freedom of expression in a manner that is consistent with the Oath Terms of Service, Community Guidelines and Privacy Policy

Oath publishes information about our handling of government demands for user information and content removal biennially in our transparency report.

Engagement

Oath recognizes our responsibility to engage with multiple stakeholders to promote rule of law and the reform of laws, policies, and practices that infringe on freedom of expression and privacy. To that end, we have taken a number of steps, including:

  • Active engagement with governments and agencies around the world to encourage a shared understanding of the power of the Internet, media and information to inspire, inform and create positive change, promote free expression and privacy in the tech sector and to discuss GNI’s aims. We also strive to create a shared understanding of the negative impact of laws that do not protect the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.
  • Active engagement with a number of human rights and other organizations, both inside and outside of the GNI, to discuss options for working together to address issues of freedom expression and privacy in the ICT sector.

Accountability

As part of Oath’s commitment to the GNI Principles and Implementation Guidelines, we agree to be assessed by an independent, third-party assessor on the policies and procedures we have in place to support our commitments. Below is information about independent assessments of Yahoo (now part of Oath).

  • 2015 Independent Assessment: The assessment reviewed company process and responses to specific government demands implicating freedom of expression or privacy in order to determine company compliance and identify whether our policies and procedures work in practice. GNI Report (July 2016); Yahoo blog (July 2016)
  • 2013 Independent Assessment: The assessment reviewed company process and responses to specific government demands implicating freedom of expression or privacy in order to determine company compliance and identify whether our policies and procedures work in practice. GNI Report (January 2014); Yahoo blog (January 2014)
  • 2011 Independent Assessment: The independent assessment reviewed the policies, processes, and procedures Yahoo had in place to implement the GNI Principles. GNI Annual Report (2011)
  • 2010 Self-Report: Pursuant to the GNI Governance, Accountability and Learning Framework, Yahoo provided a report to the GNI on our progress toward creating and adopting the internal policies and procedures necessary to implement the Principles.

To Learn More

For more information about the GNI, please visit GNI’s website.