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‘Googling Freedom’ Considers Role of Internet as Agent for Democracy

March 15, 2011 — In North Africa and the Middle East, Facebook has been credited with fueling revolutions. By contrast, in China citizens are serving jail time for sharing information about democracy over the Internet.

On March 17, Professor Erika George will host, “Googling Freedom: The Internet Industry, Human Rights Obligations and Accountability,” a roundtable discussion about the role of corporations in promoting democracy or serving the interests of dictators. George is a professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law.

The discussion will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Sutherland Moot Courtroom on campus. Participants are expected to analyze issues such as what social responsibility means for information technology (IT) corporations operating in the context of authoritarian regimes and how the law should shape the role of new media in an era of global information exchange.

“The Internet industry is at the center new challenges and opportunities and must determine how profits and policies align with human rights obligations,” George says. “We’re excited to bring together experts from academia, human rights advocacy and the IT industry to discuss these important and timely issues.”

Participants include Professor Anupam Chander of the University of California, Davis, who writes in the areas of cyberlaw, corporate law and public international law; Rebecca MacKinnon, formerly of CNN Beijing and currently with the Global Online Freedom Initiative and the Committee to Protect Journalists; Sonja Gitten Ottley, Manager, Business & Humans Rights Program, Yahoo!; and Arvind Ganesan, director of Human Rights Watch’s business and human rights program. Chander will appear in person; all other guests will participate via video teleconference.

Attendance is free and open to the public. No pre-registration is required. The roundtable will be broadcast on the College of Law’s dashboard and streamed live on Facebook . A light lunch will be provided for attendees.