Freedom of expression

Today, any action in the online world can be considered a demonstration of freedom of expression. It is therefore even more important to guarantee it and to do so while protecting privacy.

In this context, particularly important is the resolution on ‘the right to privacy in the digital age’, approved in November 2013 by the United Nations General Assembly, which establishes that people’s rights are universal and they must be protected both online and offline.

The telecommunications industry is aware of its role in this regard and the complexity involved in addressing this issue. Hence, it is in favour of promoting sectoral initiatives. Along these same lines, at Telefónica we are convinced that the best way of advancing globally in respect for freedom of expression is through dialogue among governments, the industry, civil society (including human rights experts), investors, supranational organisations and other stakeholders.

Taking this as our starting point and after two years of collaboration, in March 2013 we formally created, together with a group of operators and manufacturers in the sector, the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy..

This group has developed the Guiding Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, which addresses these rights in the industry, specifically exploring interaction and the limits between a government’s duty to protect human rights and companies’ responsibility to respect them.

The principles cover the following issues in order to provide a common framework for the development of corporate policies and processes:

  • Political commitment
  • Awareness-raising and training
  • Evaluation of impact and due diligence
  • Shared knowledge
  • Process (to handle and anticipate government requests)
  • External reporting
  • Mitigation of risks of government demands
  • Informative policy and regulations on freedom of expression and privacy
  • Job security and freedom
  • Complaints mechanisms

To maximise its dissemination, exchange best practices, etc., the Dialogue Group is supported by a reference organisation in this matter: Global Network Initiative (GNI).

Industry advances

The first report of the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy outlines the main actions and advances.