Forcepoint, Cisco, Verizon, Sandvine & McAfee support freedom of speech in Pakistan

Action: major IT firms publicly refrained from submitting bids after the Pakistani government released a tender asking IT firms to develop a URL filtering system, which would have severely limited civil society’s freedom of expression. Some companies publicly cited concerns about freedoms of expression as their main reason for not biding.

Drivers and Enablers of Business action: 

Partially based on CAF and LSE’s Beyond integrity report:.

What made companies willingly give up a potentially very lucrative deal to uphold freedom of expression? As highlighted on the list below, there were a number of internal and external drivers. For example, the companies likely acted because their peer showed leadership and to avoid negative consumer reaction. It was also important that they were open to hearing NGO Bolo Bhi’s human rights reasons against bidding and that a "peer" showed leadership: Websense, now Forcepoint, was the first firm to respond and went a step further; it said it would not bid and it called on other firms not to. 

Drivers and Enablers of Business action: 

Drivers of business action:

    • Internal: Complying with internal codes of conduct
    • Internal: Ensuring enabling environment for Corporate Social Responsibility objectives
    • External: Positioning company as leader
    • External: Minimising reputational risk
    • External: Comparison with peers
    • External: Avoiding negative consumer action: an extensive network was formed to pressure the companies to abstain from the bid, there was a public petition asking them not to do it, New York Times wrote about it – a lot of attention on the situation
    • External: Avoiding domestic or cross-border lawsuits

Enablers of business action:

    • Assistance by CSOs: NGO Bolo Bhi set out the human rights reasons for bidding for the project
    • Peer showing leadership: Once Websense had made the commitment, others followed suit by committing not to bid

To learn more: 

"The Role of Business in Protecting Human Rights Defenders" Global Contact webinar