“Celebrating 10 Years of Raising the Voice of Freedom of Expression” by Patrik Hiselius
The continuous need to act in the present
My heaviest mail folder is named “New Initiative.” It includes much of ten years of interaction with representatives of peer companies, civil society, investors and academics with a joint interest in and commitment to shared learnings and joint leverage to the benefit of freedom of expression and surveillance privacy. We learn from past experiences, and we build and plan for the future. But more importantly, we continuously need to act in the present.
Telia Company is a member of the GNI, and I represent Telia Company at the GNI Board. The below presents my introduction on behalf of the Industry Dialogue (ID) at the GNI Board meeting in March 2017 when seven ID telecom operators joined forces with the GNI:
“Thank you for the opportunity to say some forward-looking words on behalf of the ID seven companies. This is the moment to be thrilled, but also the moment to consider — each and every one of us — what important and often very practical long-hour work that lay ahead of us. In February a year ago, the ID and the GNI announced to join forces to promote and advance Freedom of Expression and Privacy around the world — together. As the ID, we have highly valued the close collaboration with the GNI over the years, and we are thrilled to now finally become full members of the GNI. We all hold the GNI values high, and we want to stand by them. Personally, I am impressed to hear how employees of Internet companies in the U.S. make it clear to managements that these values are today embedded within the companies, with its groups of employees. A tone from the top, as well as a tone from within.
As in sports — the perception of a team — the perception of GNI is how well we did today, and this week — not what we did a year ago, nor what we plan to do in a years’ time from now — but what leverage we bring today, what change we make happen today. That is also why we need to continue to build leverage, welcoming others who can commit and help to advance freedom of expression and privacy.
As companies, we need to find ways, every day, to anticipate and avoid being complicit to human rights infringements. When our seven ID telecom companies now become GNI members, we choose to be linked to, and to actively contribute to, the everyday work of the GNI. We want to cause advancement of freedom of expression and privacy, on the ground.
So — it is about all of those struggling globally, day-by-day, striving for that freedom of expression and privacy can prevail. Globally.
Let me end by sharing with you two quotes:
First a quote by Malala Yousafzai: “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” (Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Swedish Nobel Prize laureate)
Secondly a quote by Joe Cannataci, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, who beginning of this month (March 2017) in Geneva said: “The issue of governmental surveillance deserves more attention than ever. I am deeply concerned that the right to privacy will simply not experience a full transition to the digital age.”
We have an exciting couple of years ahead of us, with 5G, IoT and AI coming strongly. Bringing huge opportunities. The issue of government surveillance deserves more attention than ever. Together in the GNI, we can push for freedom of expression and privacy being part of the on-going transition into the digital age.”
The GNI press release announcing this event is available here.
Today, we can see that the shared learning and joint leverage which the GNI brings is as important as ever as new issues emerge alongside technologic developments as well as trends toward strategic autonomy. The GNI can provide a forum for frank and safe and therefore open discussions. The GNI can also, based on shared learnings, lead to joint leverage action such as the GNI one-pager, available in 12 languages, on ‘Consequences of Network Shutdowns and Service Disruptions — A Guide for Policymakers.’
As a multi-stakeholder initiative, the GNI can serve as a strong voice continuously advocating freedom of expression and surveillance privacy in the context of government requests and demands.
*Patrik Hiselius, LL.B, is Senior Advisor Digital Rights at Telia Company in Stockholm, Sweden