Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Corporate Gatekeepers on the Internet

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Image from

By Natasha Tusikov, Baldy Centre for Law and Social Policy, University of Buffalo at the State University of New York

Who makes the rules that govern how we use services and technologies on the Internet, and how are those rules implemented and enforced? Public concern over Internet surveillance peaked in 2013 with Edward Snowden’s dramatic disclosure of highly classified files. The Snowden files reveal that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its allies are highly reliant upon large, U.S.-based Internet firms, particularly Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook, among others. These firms are ideally suited to facilitate mass surveillance as many of their applications and services are premised upon sharing personal information and cultivating ever-expanding social and professional networks. Continue Reading →

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Kiobel and the US Alien Tort Statute: Australian Connections

Panguna Mine, Bougainville. Source:

Panguna Mine, Bougainville. Source:

By Jonathan Kolieb

Cynthia Banham wrote an insightful piece on this blog regarding the US Supreme Court’s Kiobel decision, which was handed down in April this year. The Court’s decision is of tremendous significance to the future of corporate accountability for heinous crimes. Indeed, the Kiobel decision, arguably, has a far greater impact on international, non-US firms than it does on US companies. On that basis, I would like to continue the conversation on this blog regarding corporate accountability in a post-Kiobel era that Cynthia has eloquently kicked off. To do so, I provide a few disconnected thoughts on the case from an Australian perspective. The judgment was influenced by Australian-linked developments, and it will have direct implications for Australian companies and potentially for our courts as well. 

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Transnational Corporations and Positive Human Rights Duties

By Ned Dobos

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW @ ADFA

 Image: Virginia Warren, Toby Worscheck, Paul Wolf; OccupyDesign

When doing business in host countries, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) must not directly engage in, contribute to, or be complicit in human rights violations. By now this much is relatively uncontroversial—it follows from the consistent application of the basic moral injunction to “do no harm”. Ordinarily, doing no harm simply means remaining passive; it requires only that we refrain from acting in certain ways. But this is not always the case, and it does not hold true for TNCs according to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie (2008). Unless a TNC actively undertakes certain programs geared towards securing human rights, says Ruggie, its routine and seemingly innocuous business activities can wind up aiding and abetting rights violations. Thus for TNCs, the negative duty to do no harm demands that positive steps be taken. Continue Reading →