Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after Facebook announced that it would be joining the Global Network Initiative (GNI) as an observer.
"Facebook is presented with the significant human rights issues that the Global Network Initiative is designed to help companies address. For years, I've urged the social network giant to join the GNI and take other steps to protect the human rights of its users," Durbin said. "Facebook has a moral obligation to ensure that governments do not use Facebook as a tool to facilitate repression. I commend Facebook for taking the important step of joining the GNI as an observer. I hope Facebook becomes a full member of the Global Network Initiative quickly and leads the industry in adopting the Initiative's principles and expanding the partnership's reach."
The GNI is a voluntary code of conduct for internet and communications technology companies that requires its members to take reasonable measures to protect human rights. According to the GNI, observer status allows companies who are actively considering joining GNI to examine the initiative's programs and principles on freedom of expression and privacy.
Durbin has focused on the issue of internet freedom since he became the first Chairman of the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee in 2007. In 2008, Durbin held a hearing on internet freedom where Google and Yahoo testified. Following the hearing, Durbin pressed Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to launch the Global Network Initiative and he has since urged other companies to join the GNI. Durbin held a second hearing on the issue in 2010 where Facebook refused to testify.
Durbin has written Facebook three times about its efforts to protect the human rights of its users and to urge the company to join the GNI.