Providing strategic advisory services to international technology companies on public policy, human rights, market entry, organizational design, and leadership – focusing on freedom of expression, privacy, non-discrimination, public safety, and national security.

What We Do

The BHR Group is led by Michael Samway, a veteran technology company executive and global public policy advisor.

We advise information and communications technology companies on integrating global business operations with leadership and responsible decision-making on policies, practices, and strategies related to free expression, privacy, non-discrimination, public safety, and national security issues. This includes advising on questions around content moderation, data location and disclosure, systems architecture, and encryption as well as on organizational structure and risk anticipation, evaluation, and response.

We have advised companies including Airbnb, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Millicom, Nokia, Twitter, Verizon, and Yahoo!. We have also advised Cloudflare (Project Galileo), the Global Network Initiative and the Wikimedia Foundation on a pro bono basis.

We focus on operations in markets around the globe, including in countries with weak rule of law, and align our work with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its implementing treaties, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the GNI Principles, and other norms related to business and society and the rights to freedom of expression, privacy, and non-discrimination. We are also committed to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all our work.

Examples of our work include assisting companies with —

  • Design of global business and human rights programs;
  • Gap analysis on free expression and privacy protections;
  • Policy development on encryption, surveillance, censorship, countering violent extremism, hate speech, public safety and national security;
  • Development of ethics decision-making frameworks for big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  • Human rights impact assessments;
  • International legal and data architecture plans;
  • Global law enforcement response strategies;
  • Global transparency reporting;
  • Global Network Initiative independent assessment preparation;
  • Executive and board training on business and human rights;
  • Strengthening relationships with civil society, academics, and investors;
  • Engagement strategy with government, including with legislators, foreign affairs ministries, regulatory bodies, and the intelligence community;
  • Strategic advice on market entry in jurisdictions with weak rule of law;
  • Global public affairs and communications strategies.

Publications, Interviews, and Newsletter

Below are select publications or commentary by Michael Samway on technology and human rights issues.

  • GNI: A Journey of Trust and Making Common Cause

    Just over a dozen years ago, representatives from technology companies, civil society, socially responsible investors, and academia gathered — some reluctantly, most skeptically, all cautiously — to begin a collective discussion on how to address human rights risks created by global companies ...

  • Industry-Specific Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives That Govern Corporate Human Rights Standards: Legitimacy assessments of the Fair Labor Association and the Global Network Initiative

  • In beta, Episode 3: Can a business be a human rights defender?

    GPD’s Executive Director interviews Michael Samway, former Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel for Yahoo! and current adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

  • Book chapter offers guidance on freedom of expression & privacy for the ICT sector

    The primary purpose of this chapter is to offer practical guidance to companies on how to respect human rights...

  • Interview with Michael Samway, founder of Yahoo!'s business & human rights programme

    Companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others have to anticipate the most ...

  • Protection of Free Speech and Privacy

    Michael Samway talked about the Global Network Initiative, a joint effort between technology and human rights organizations to protect free speech and…

  • Stimulating the Information Technology Economy and Expanding Democracy

    Throughout this financial crisis, Americans have heard from economists of nearly every persuasion that a sustained effort must be made to promote the flow of capital into ...

  • Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice

    In a global economy, multinational companies often operate in jurisdictions where governments are either unable or unwilling to uphold even the basic human rights of their citizens ....

  • The BHR Group Digital Rights Careers Newsletter

    Sign-up for this free newsletter where the news is job announcements for civil society, academia, government, press, tech companies, international organizations, and more.

Who We Are

Michael Samway

Michael Samway

Michael Samway is president of The Business and Human Rights Group. He spent ten years (2000-2010) at Yahoo!, where he was a vice president and deputy general counsel, led the international legal team, founded Yahoo!’s Business & Human Rights Program, and was a founding board member of the Global Network Initiative. He previously practiced corporate and securities law at White & Case in the Latin America Practice Group. While studying law, Michael worked in the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations Unit at the U.S. Department of Commerce and in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State.

Michael regularly lectures and writes on business, human rights and technology topics. He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, where he is former board chair of the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program. He has been a senior lecturer at Duke Law School and is a former visiting scholar at the Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Samway currently serves on the Advisory Network of the Freedom Online Coalition and is a co-lead of the Taskforce on Digital Equality. He formerly served on the Advisory Council of the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index. He also served for more than ten years on the board, including as chair, of the children’s advocacy organization Foster Care Review. Michael has been called on to facilitate meetings between U.S. government officials, technology companies and civil society regarding topics including violent extremism online, government surveillance, and encryption. He has also testified before the U.S. Congress on internet freedom.

Michael received BSFS/MSFS degrees from Georgetown University in 1991, was a Fulbright scholar in Chile, and received JD/LLM degrees in comparative and international law from Duke Law School in 1996.

Michael on LinkedIn            

Current Policy Fellows

Rebeca Joy West
2017 – 2022

Rebeca Joy West is a Senior Policy Fellow and has been with The BHR Group since 2017. She has assisted in the design and preparation of human rights impact assessments for companies in the ICT sector. Rebeca is an Honors Fellow with the Center for International Business & Human Rights at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, which prepares law students to address the growing human rights challenges faced by U.S. companies operating abroad, and provides academic think tank support to positively influence contemporary international business and human rights issues, with a particular focus on the Information & Communications Technology and energy sectors.

Rebeca received her LL.M. in International Business & Human Rights from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio, a Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and is admitted to practice law in Oklahoma.

Former Policy Fellows

Nerissa Naidoo

Nerissa Naidoo

Nerissa Naidoo worked with The BHR Group as a Policy Fellow 2020-2021. Nerissa was a human rights fellow at SMEX (Beirut, Lebanon), an NGO that works regionally to defend digital rights across the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2018, Nerissa was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to attend Harvard Law School, where she received her LL.M. and was active in the International Human Rights Clinic, working on corporate accountability of mining companies in West Africa. Nerissa received her undergraduate law degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. She is currently attending Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Mahmoud Ghanem

Mahmoud Ghanem

Mahmoud Ghanem worked with the BHR Group as a Policy Fellow 2020-2021, focusing on human rights impact assessments in the Middle East and Africa. Previously, Mahmoud served as Projects Unit Director at Purple Development, an NGO that works regionally in human rights, community development, and political organization in the Middle East. Mahmoud was a Congressional Fellow at the American Council of Young Political Leaders, where he worked at the office of late Senator John McCain in Washington, D.C.

Mahmoud is a graduate student at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. He received his MBBCh from Alexandria University Faculty of Medicine and is admitted to practice medicine in Egypt.

Itay Weiss

Itay Weiss worked with The BHR Group as a Policy Fellow 2019-2021 conducting research for various human rights impact assessments across Africa and the Middle East for a global technology company. Previously, Itay was a Policy & Public Affairs Fellow at the Information Technology Industry Council and was also a Fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation. Itay was also a Team Lead for a UNESCO project in Israel for two years.

Itay earned his M.A. in Public Policy from Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy, where he also founded Georgetown’s student-led Tech Policy Initiative. He received his law degree from Ono Law School in Kiryat Ono, Israel. He’s also a member of the Israeli Bar Association.

Luisa Paganini

Luisa Paganini

Luisa Paganini joined The BHR group during summer 2019 and worked on a regional mapping project assessing the intersection of political events and digital rights issues. She also initiated a regional digital rights newsletter for the public policy team of a large technology company. Previously, she was a VP at Roam International, a global tech and hospitality startup. Luisa also completed a fellowship in entrepreneurship with Venture for America in 2018 and led volunteer efforts in Miami for Andrew Yang’s 2020 presidential campaign before joining full-time as a staffer. Luisa speaks five languages and is originally from São Paulo, Brasil.

Luisa graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government & International Relations as well as a Certificate in German & European Studies from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

A. Kwabena Akuamoah-Boateng

Kwabena Akuamoah-Boateng has been a Policy Fellow with The BHR Group since September 2017, working on various international and digital rights issues, including support on HRIAs and geopolitical and technology analysis across Africa among other regions. He has worked at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, leading the Mission’s digital and youth engagement. Kwabena began his career as an Assistant Export Development Officer for the Ghana Export Promotion Authority. He went on to co-found an election monitoring project in Ghana. In 2016, he was awarded the Georgetown MSFS Africa Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship for a talented graduate student from sub-Saharan Africa.

Kwabena received his Master of Science in Foreign Service (with a concentration on Global Politics and Security) from Georgetown University in May 2018. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Resource Development from the University of Ghana.

Smythe Anderson

Smythe was a Policy Fellow at The BHR Group from August 2016 to May 2017. She led the drafting of human rights impact assessments across markets in Latin America and Africa for an international technology company. Smythe began her career in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, serving as a legislative correspondent for Senator Richard Burr and as a legislative assistant and press secretary for Congressman Paul Ryan. She also worked in congressional relations and government affairs for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Smythe currently works on energy policy and planning in the government affairs office at Chevron.

Smythe has a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Political Science and French.

Paige Lovejoy Nicol

Paige was a Policy Fellow with The BHR Group from February 2016 – April 2017. In this role, she supported the development of strengthened privacy policies and ethical decision making practices for the collection and use of big data at a large emerging-markets focused telecommunications provider. She began her career as a consultant at Deloitte Consulting and is currently a manager on the Intellectual Capital team at Omidyar Network where she has focused on projects including Governance & Citizen Engagement and Digital Identity initiatives.

Paige received a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She also graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown with a B.S. in Foreign Service.

Simon Harari

Simon was a Policy Fellow at The BHR Group in 2015 and worked on human rights impact assessments in Latin America and the Middle East. He is currently a Public Policy Manager at Facebook, where he helps develop and implement Facebook’s community standards.

Prior to joining Facebook, Simon was a member of the Public Policy and Social Impact team at Tumblr, and has held fellowships in the Yahoo! Business and Human Rights Program and at the Global Network Initiative. 

Simon has a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University, a law degree with honors from the University of Melbourne, and is admitted to legal practice in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.

Contact The BHR Group

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