YAHOO! AND GOOGLE ASKED TO RESPECT FREE EXPRESSION IN SHAREHOLDER RESOLUTION FILED BY NEW YORK CITY PENSION FUND
Reporters Without Borders voiced support today for a shareholder resolution about freedom of expression that has been filed with Yahoo! and Google by the New York City Pension Fund, which owns around 400 million dollars of stock in the two companies.
"More and more initiatives are being taken by individual shareholders and investment funds to force Internet companies to respect certain ethical principles when operating in repressive countries," the press freedom organisation said. "The New York City Pension Fund's involvement is excellent news because it is an investor with both financial and symbolic weight."
Reporters Without Borders added: "We call on all shareholders in Yahoo! and Google, both individuals and management companies, to vote in support of this resolution at these companies' next annual shareholders meetings."
The shareholder resolution (full text below) was announced today by New York city comptroller William C. Thompson. The city's pension fund, which mainly handles the retirement funds of city employees, owns 687,244 shares in Google worth 276 million dollars and 4,372,277 shares in Yahoo! worth 110 million dollars.
The resolution sets out a series of principles to be respected by Internet companies, especially when operating in the "13 countries that restrict and monitor information." The resolution names the same countries that appear in the list of 13 "Internet enemies" which Reporters Without Borders published in November.
The resolution affirms that: "Technology companies in the United States that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian governments have an obligation to comply with the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights."
Reporters Without Borders has for several years been urging investment funds to take action in support of online free expression. At the organisation's initiative, 30 investors signed a statement in 2005 about the moral responsibilities of Internet sector companies.
A resolution calling on Cisco Systems to produce a report on his activities in repressive countries was backed by 29 per cent of shareholders in a vote at the company's annual shareholders meeting on 15 November.
Individual shareholders have filed a shareholder resolution on freedom of expression with Yahoo! Like the one filed by the New York City Pension Fund, it will be put up for vote at the company's next annual shareholders meeting.