SAN FRANCISCO — Technology titans and political activists gathered here on Tuesday to map ways to ensure the Internet is used as a tool for human rights instead of as a weapon of oppression.
The overarching goal of the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference was to collaborate on principles for entrepreneurs to balance pursuit of profit with making sure their creations are used for social good instead of evil.
"Silicon Valley has always been the epicenter of technological innovation," conference organizer Brett Solomon said as he opened the event.
"But now it is also a digital beacon of hope," he said. "From the creation of the chip to the writing of the code... we can commit together to make sure the technologies are a force for good."
Engineers, entrepreneurs, and executives joined with political analysts, activists, and charity groups to delve into the increasingly vital role that the Internet plays in social reform.
Sponsors of the gathering include Google, Facebook, Skype, Mozilla and Yahoo!
"I view the Internet as the greatest opportunity to advance human rights in our lifetime," Facebook vice president of global communication and public policy Elliot Schrage told attendees. "The Internet gives people a voice, and we need to make sure it stays that way."
Threats targeted at the conference included Western technology firms cooperating with governments to censor what is shared on the Internet or track down people disliked by authorities.
"The bottom line is: we're here because of the actions of governments," Google public policy director Bob Boorstin said in prepared remarks.
"It's not just repressive regimes, but democratic ones too," he said. "We know more than 40 regimes that are actively blocking content around the world."