Howard Kennedy partner Mark Stephens steps down today as Independent Board Chair of Global Network Initiative (GNI), a non-governmental organisation with the dual goals of preventing Internet censorship by authoritarian governments and protecting the Internet privacy rights of individuals. It is sponsored by a coalition of multi-national corporations, non-profit organisations, and universities. Mark has served two three-year terms as Chair of the organisation, achieving during his time in post the expansion of GNI’s Board through the addition of telecommunications and equipment manufacturing companies to its membership and the organisation’s work to promote freedom of expression and privacy when countering extremism online.
Mark's successor to the role is international human rights expert David Kaye. David will assume his position later in 2020 upon completing his term as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. He has held this role since August 2014 and is also a clinical professor of law at the University of California Irvine School of Law where he directs the International Justice Clinic.
During his time as UN Special Rapporteur, an independent expert mandated to monitor freedom of expression for the UN Human Rights Council, David addressed multiple topics central to GNI’s mission. He published landmark reports on issues at the intersection of State action, the private sector, and freedom of expression in the digital age.
The GNI was launched in 2008 to address the question of how technology companies can best respect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users – wherever they operate. GNI was the product of more than two years of deliberation by information and communications technology companies, human rights and press freedom organisations, academics, and investors.