Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Media Corporations: Incorporating Human Rights through Rankings, Self-Regulation and Shareholder Resolutions

By George, Erika | Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Media Corporations: Incorporating Human Rights through Rankings, Self-Regulation and Shareholder Resolutions


George, Erika, Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law


ABSTRACT                                                         521 I.SOCIAL MEDIA AND SOCIAL CHANGE                                 523 II.HUMAN RIGHTS RISKS AND CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY               524     A. Fundamental Human Rights: Free Expression and Privacy        Protection                                                525     B. New Technologies and Rethinking Rights Protections        526     C. Facebook is not France: Corporate Responsibility to        Respect Digital Rights                                    528     D. The United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles     on Business  and Human Rights                                528 III.INDICATORS AND INFORMATION TO ENFORCE RESPECT FOR     RIGHTS                                                       530     A. Ranking Digital Rights                                    530     B. Rankings as Regulation                                    532 IV.INDUSTRY SELF-HELP SOLUTIONS FOR RIGHTS RISKS: THE     GLOBAL NETWORK INITIATIVE                                    533 V.PRESSURES TO IMPROVE RIGHTS PERFORMANCE: PROXY     PROPOSALS AND INVESTOR INTEREST                              535 VI.INFORMATION AND THE CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY TO     RESPECT RIGHTS                                               536 VII.CONCLUSION                                                   538 

Chinese journalist Shi Tao did not report on the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing because he was serving a ten-year prison sentence for divulging a "state secret." Using his Yahoo! e-mail account, Shi Tao sent a message about China's restrictions imposed on local journalists to the U.S.-based Asia Democracy Foundation. Chinese government authorities tracked him down with the assistance of Hong Kong based Yahoo Holdings Ltd., a Yahoo! foreign subsidiary that provided China's state security apparatus with details allowing the communications to be traced back to Shi Tao's computer. Privacy rights and free expression advocacy organizations accused the company of complicity in the government's violation of Shi Tao's rights. When challenged by rights activists concerning his corporation's role in the journalist's imprisonment, Jerry Yang, Yahoo's U.S.-based co-founder, reportedly claimed his company was simply complying with local laws.

Freedom is not a reality in much of the world. Maintaining that sufficient corporate social responsibility simply entails abiding by local law and making profits in new markets misses the fact that business enterprises could, consistent with local laws, end up accused of aiding and abetting human rights abuses. In particular, corporate social responsibility in the social media space must require more of business enterprises. Implementing and improving human rights due diligence and disclosures could help users and hinder would be rights abusers. Ranking and rating the human rights performance of communications technology companies could provide a path for reforms to improve conditions.

1. SOCIAL MEDIA AND SOCIAL CHANGE

We live in the Age of Information where social media can drive social change. Activists around the world are using social media to voice dissent and demand change. For example, the Internet played an important role in the uprisings of the Arab Spring in 2011 as activists used various forms of new media to register their opposition, organize protests, and expose state abuses. Images of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian man who set himself alight in protest before a local government office, circulated in cyberspace before being broadcast by Middle East media corporation al-Jazeera. Observers credit his act, witnessed around the world, with sparking the Jasmine Revolution and leading to the removal of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali after twenty-three years in power. In Egypt, a Facebook page administered by a Google marketing executive helped mobilize a march of thousands to Tahrir Square in Cairo. …

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