Technology companies operating in Internet-restricting countries are often put in difficult positions. In order to conduct business, they must adhere to repressive domestic laws or respond to unreasonable government demands and thereby risk being complicit in human rights violations. Manufacturers and sellers of technologies and software that can facilitate surveillance by authoritarian regimes also face thorny ethical questions when entering certain markets. The great challenge is to determine what steps both private companies and their democratic home governments can take to ensure that the Internet remains a tool for freedom rather than repression.
In October 2008, CDT, leading Internet companies and others launched the Global Network Initiative
with the issuance of principles and implementation guidelines to help companies address this challenge. Grounded in internationally recognized human rights law, the GNI seeks to seed the standard for corporate responsibility in the ICT sector and promote better governmental policies through collaboration and collective action.