It’s Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.
This week’s post includes: an effort by Twitter to enjoin U.S. Government demands for information regarding a user account critical of the Trump Administration; an announcement that seven telecommunications companies have joined the Global Network Initiative; and a decision by EITI to make project-level payment reporting mandatory.
- On April 6, Twitter filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection seeking to enjoin the enforcement of an administrative summons demanding that the company provide records related to identity of the user behind the Twitter account @ALT_USCIS. The account has been critical of the Trump Administration, specifically current immigration policies and procedures. In its filing, Twitter argued that “[t]he rights of free speech afforded Twitter’s users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech.” [Update: On Friday, April 7, Twitter dropped the lawsuit after the U.S. Government withdrew the summons.]
- On April 3, trial began in Quinteros v. DynCorp, a case involving claims by Ecuadorian plaintiffs who allege that they suffered severe harm as the result of fumigation activities conducted by DynCorp in the Ecuadorian/Colombian border region. DynCorp’s spraying of fumigants was conducted as part of Plan Colombia, through which the company had a contract with the U.S. Government to eradicate cocaine and heroin crops growing in Colombia. The long-running case, originally filed in 2001 pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute, is proceeding to trial on the basis of common law claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial is before the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
- On March 28, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) released a new paper, Responsible Business Conduct for Institutional Investors: Key Considerations for Due Diligence under the OECD Guidelines. Multinational Enterprises. The paper provides guidance to institutional investors on how to conduct due diligence in a manner that is consistent with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment, and the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The guidance is intended to help investors to prevent or address adverse human rights, environmental, and corruption-related risks in their investment portfolios.
- On March 27, the Global Network Initiative (“GNI”) announced that Millicom, Nokia, Orange, Telefónica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, and Vodafone Group have all become participants in the multi-stakeholder initiative. The companies join Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In 2016, the seven telecommunications companies had become formal observers to the GNI, an initiative focused on protection of the rights of privacy and free expression. As full participants, the new companies will participate in GNI’s independent assessment process. Each of the telcommunications companies joining GNI had previously been a participant in the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue, which formed a two-year partnership with GNI in 2013.
- On March 9, the Board of Directors of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (“EITI”) decided that its 51 member countries will need to disclose receipt information at the project-level with regard to payments received from oil, gas, and mining companies. Companies operating in the member countries are required to publish information on project-level payments. Project-level reporting will become mandatory for all reports covering fiscal years ending on or after December 31, 2018.
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