Human Rights First Urges Microsoft to Engage Civil Society, End its Role in Abusive Russian Enforcement Practices

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino is urging Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer to implement a series of changes to strengthen company efforts to protect fundamental rights. In a letter sent to Ballmer after a New York Times article exposed Russia’s attempts to crack down on civil society groups with the help of Microsoft, Massimino urged the company to abandon such efforts and to develop relationships with Russian civil society activities who could identify and ensure a rapid response to future incidents.

“Our human rights partners in Russia have long been concerned about official obstruction of the legitimate activities of independent civil society organizations and denial of basic rights to non-violent activists, including selective anti piracy enforcement. These activists are well-positioned to help Microsoft identify and respond appropriately to potential abuse. They can also help inform your efforts to expand Microsoft’s programs among civil society in Russia, as well as promote awareness to ensure wider participation by groups vulnerable to selective enforcement,” Massimino noted.

Microsoft and Human Rights First are both participants in the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics who take a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. In her letter, Massimino noted that the recommendations outlined by Human Rights First are consistent with Microsoft’s obligations under the GNI to work with other stakeholders to confront government policies and practices that limit freedom of expression.

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino is urging Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer to implement a series of changes to strengthen company efforts to protect fundamental rights. In a letter sent to Ballmer after a New York Times article exposed Russia’s attempts to crack down on civil society groups with the help of Microsoft, Massimino urged the company to abandon such efforts and to develop relationships with Russian civil society activities who could identify and ensure a rapid response to future incidents.

“Our human rights partners in Russia have long been concerned about official obstruction of the legitimate activities of independent civil society organizations and denial of basic rights to non-violent activists, including selective anti piracy enforcement. These activists are well-positioned to help Microsoft identify and respond appropriately to potential abuse. They can also help inform your efforts to expand Microsoft’s programs among civil society in Russia, as well as promote awareness to ensure wider participation by groups vulnerable to selective enforcement,” Massimino noted.

Microsoft and Human Rights First are both participants in the Global Network Initiative (GNI), a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics who take a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. In her letter, Massimino noted that the recommendations outlined by Human Rights First are consistent with Microsoft’s obligations under the GNI to work with other stakeholders to confront government policies and practices that limit freedom of expression.

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