Why we produce the Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index: People have a right to know. Companies have a responsibility to show.

We rank the world’s most powerful internet, mobile and telecommunications companies on their respect for users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

On May 16th we will release the 2019 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index at the Stockholm Internet Forum. The RDR Index, first launched in 2015, tracks if and how some of the world’s most powerful companies respect and protect users’ freedom of expression and privacy — or where they completely fail to do so.

As we launch our fourth RDR Index, the future of the internet — as a free and open tool that can help democratize and hold the powerful to account — is very much in question. The products and services offered by the companies we track are no longer celebrated as forces of liberation.

While the internet and related technologies have indeed helped people circumvent traditional barriers to holding governments and powerful corporations accountable, they did not shatter as many walls as democracy and human rights activists once hoped and expected. Instead, daily headlines report how they make us vulnerable to mass surveillance, unaccountable censorship, disinformation, and viral hate speech that incites violence. Entirely new channels have been created for abusing power, in ways that we are still struggling to understand. In many places and on many issues, exercising and defending human rights has grown more difficult.

What kind of an internet we will end up with will be wholly shaped by if and how we respond to these challenges, however complex. As the Mozilla Foundation’s latest Internet Health Report underscores, while the health of the internet is at a critical juncture, the future is up to everyone. Everybody who uses the internet needs to understand the power dynamics at play in the manufacture, design, and operations of the products and services we depend upon. In November 2018, on the thirtieth anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee called for a new Contract for the Web “with clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better.”

We could not agree more.

This is why Ranking Digital Rights produces the Corporate Accountability Index: the need to hold companies accountable is more pressing than ever. People have the right to know — and companies have a responsibility to show — how our freedom of expression and and privacy are affected by the internet platforms and services we increasingly depend on. The RDR Index data can be used by civil society advocates, investors, policymakers, and companies themselves to identify where specific companies fall short in protecting users’ rights and how they can improve. It can also be used as a tool to show where law and regulation need to be be improved or reformed.

A challenging road lies ahead before coming close to the vision we share with many others: an internet that supports and sustains human rights. Still, we believe that the 2019 RDR Index findings offer hope: when companies decide to improve their respect for internet users’ rights, they can.

Where to find the 2019 RDR Index and how to follow our events online and in person:
On Thursday May 16, the 2019 RDR Index results will be available on our website at: rankingdigitalrights.org. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #rankingrights.
On Thursday May 16, we will officially launch the 2019 RDR Index at the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF 2019). Tune into the live webcast at 5.30 pm CET on the conference website.
On Tuesday May 21, RDR will hold the U.S. launch of the 2019 RDR Index at New America in Washington, DC. The live webcast at this link starts at 9:30 am EST.
On Thursday May 23, RDR will debut the 2019 RDR Index on the West Coast, in conjunction with Stanford’s Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi), the Center for Internet and Society (CIS), and the Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL). This is a lunch event that begins at 1:00 pm PDT. RSVP here.