Friday, July 22, 2011

"Tort and Technology": Human Rights USA Leads the Way

Yesterday's issue of The Economist notes the recent lawsuits against Cisco as the latest in efforts to use the Alien Tort Statute as a tool for holding U.S. tech companies accountable when their overseas operations lead to human rights violations. As the article points out, the Alien Tort Statute is better known as a way for survivors to sue oil companies and mining operations:
"But only in recent years has the act been used to target tech firms whose products, or user data, might have been used to trap activists. In the best-known case, in 2007, Yahoo! reached a settlement with representatives of two Chinese democracy campaigners who said the firm had given authorities information that had led to their arrest."
Actually, one of them was journalist Shi Tao, who is not a democracy campaigner. But it is correct that the lawsuit, in which Human Rights USA represented Shi Tao, Wang Xiaoning, and Yu Ling, was the first in U.S. courts to assert internet freedom as an internationally recognized human right.

We continue to build on the groundbreaking work in that case to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and privacy online, not just in China, but anywhere U.S. tech companies contribute to human rights violations.

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