Archives for March 2014

Support RDR in the Knight News Challenge!!

Knight News Challenge

Knight News Challenge screenshot from March 18, 2014

The theme of this year’s Knight foundation News Challenge is: “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?”

We believe that ranking ICT companies on freedom of expression and privacy criteria will help to do just that.

Please support our proposal! Check out our entry, then clicking on the pink “applaud” button. If you have time, please post a comment and let us know what you think – or feel free to ask questions.

RDR @ RightsCon

By Research Coordinator Allon Bar and Research Intern Hae-in Lim

Members of the RDR team debuted our preliminary “methodology elements” at RightsCon, a conference hosted by Access on human rights in the tech sector from March 3 to 5 in San Francisco. RightsCon proved to be the ideal place to strengthen our engagement with advocates, companies, policy makers, and investors—all of whom we envision as future users of the ranking.

A decidedly global affair with attendees hailing from more than 65 countries, RightsCon featured a diverse range of workshops and panels on topics from digital security and activism to corporate accountability mechanisms, transparency reporting and terms of service, The gathering served as an important reminder that numerous non-western companies serve countries with large and growing digital populations, underscoring why it is important for Ranking Digital Rights to take into account the concerns and perspectives of advocacy groups from all around the world.

Ranking Digital Rights hosted three sessions at RightsCon: the first in-person meeting of RDR researchers from around the world, a closed-door meeting with company representatives, and a public workshop open to all conference attendees that was attended primarily by activists. At the public workshop we presented the first discussion draft of our methodology and received feedback from four pre-selected respondents, Charles Mok, Sana Saleem, Michael Connor and Phil Bloomer, before opening up the floor up to questions and comments.

RDR was praised for its global scope and also as a possible tool to educate the companies themselves. Participants with prior experience in publishing rankings cautioned about the need to be transparent and credible, as well as the overall narrative of the project. One participant advised that our criteria should not only reflect company conduct (such as soliciting user feedback) but also measure its outcomes (such as implementing feedback received). Potential challenges raised included timeliness of an annual ranking of companies whose technologies and services change constantly and “survey fatigue” on the part of companies that are already being ranked and benchmarked on other issues like sustainability and supply chain labor rights.  The importance of advocacy partnerships with on-the-ground groups around the world was emphasized over and over again. Such partnerships will be central in ensuring that the data produced by the ranking will be used in a practical and effective way.

Developing a credible ranking methodology certainly is an undertaking that requires patience, commitment, and public dialogue. RightsCon was a wonderful opportunity to debut our methodology and receive initial feedback. Please keep an eye out for an updated version that will be posted for public consultation in the coming weeks!