“I’m an (extremely) small shareholder in Google, and I looked at their proxy statement today. Most of the time, shareholders’ meetings don’t deal with anything other than rubber-stamping the board of directors, but Google’s upcoming meeting has a interesting shareholder proposal dealing with free speech and censorship to be voted on at the May 10 meeting.”
The Office of the Comptroller of New York City has advised us that it intends to submit the proposal set forth below for consideration at our annual meeting. It is the custodian and trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and custodian of the New York City Board of Education Retirement System (the “Funds”), which beneficially own 486,617 shares of Google’s Class A common stock. The proposal, along with the Funds’ supporting statement, is included verbatim below. The Funds’ request was submitted by Patrick Doherty, The City of New York Office of the Comptroller, 1 Centre Street, New York, New York, 1007-2341.
The Funds’ Stockholder Proposal
Whereas, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental human rights, and free use of the Internet is protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to “receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”, and
Whereas, the rapid provision of full and uncensored information through the Internet has become a major industry in the United States, and one of its major exports, and
Whereas, political censorship of the Internet degrades the quality of that service and ultimately threatens the integrity and viability of the industry itself, both in the United States and abroad, and
Whereas, some authoritarian foreign governments such as the Governments of Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam block, restrict, and monitor the information their citizens attempt to obtain, and
Whereas, technology companies in the United States such as Google, that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian governments have an obligation to comply with the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and
Whereas, technology companies in the United States have failed to develop adequate standards by which they can conduct business with authoritarian governments while protecting human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,
Therefore, be it resolved, that shareholders request that management institute policies to help protect freedom of access to the Internet which would include the following minimum standards:
1) Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
2) The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
3) The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures
4) Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
5) Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
6) The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.
Innaresting. These are the same folks that brought you the Patriot Act resolution.