Shareholders take Vodafone to account for network shutdown during Egyptian revolution

AccessNow, an NGO that works for human rights values in telcoms policy, took a resolution to the Vodafone Board meeting in London last week, holding the company to account for its network shutdown during the Egyptian revolution and asking it to endorse a plan to uphold its customers' human rights in future.
"I am asking this question as a proxy and on behalf of thousands of people from over 85 countries who have endorsed this question to the Vodafone Board.

Our question is, in recognition of the challenges that you and other telcos faced during the Egyptian revolution and the lessons you’ve learned from this experience might you be better prepared for any future crises - which is undoubtedly in the wings - by committing to doing a human rights assessment of your licensing agreements in the roughly 70 countries you operate in, to ensure that, for example, you are both able to protect your staff and the integrity of the network, but not in the position of having to once again shut down the internet or send pro-regime messages to your customers as happened earlier in the year in Egypt?

I would like to present you with a five step action plan, consistent with the GNI principles, which we believe would assist you to protect Vodafone's brand and shareholder's profits and ask that you consider adhering to the practices outlined in the action plan."

In addition to prolonging the misery and bloodshed of the Egyptian revolution, Vodafone's network shutdown also resulted in the death of Egyptians who couldn't use their phones to call ambulances during medical emergencies. Not to mention all the money the shareholders lost when millions of Egyptians lost their phone service.

Access’ Questions Vodafone’s Board At Annual Shareholders’ Meeting (Thanks, Brett!)

(Image: vodafone in Egypt, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from emiemihuimei's photostream)


  1. Customers: they can’t pay their phone bill if they’re dead, in prison or broke cause some dictator robbed them blind. Catch-22 that.

  2. This fishing for eyeballs with misleading headlines gets really annoying. 

    About anyone can buy some stock and have the five minutes at the shareholder meeting. And if the higher-ups are polite, they even prevent to listen when the small shareholders speak. (Which can be quite interesting, by the way.)

      1. The headline is technically correct, yes. Like “Britons think the End of the World is near” would be, if I walk by Hyde Park and take notes.

    1. Technically, the headline seems right since Access acted in accord with others. It still is not as informative as it could have been since Access acted first as a human right NGO and its being a shareholder, although interesting to notice, stands at the periphery of the subject matter.

      If we watch the webcast we can see how agreeable is the gentleman who delivers the response in the name of Vodafone. I find this always an eerie experience to see how much well raised those speakers are, taking into account that telcos, like any other “well-run business”, would let anyone die if it paid them enough.

    2. Presumptions of bad faith from people who don’t RTFA are even more annoying, trust me.

      As it happens, AccessNow was there on behalf of several large institutional investors.

  3. let me try a rewrite: “You perfidious bastards betrayed us when we needed you the most.  DIAF so we can replace you with someone trustworty.”  good luck with that.

  4. Ugh… shudders at the thought of a world where every car on the road is a white BMW 1 series.

  5. Lots of people, specially in developing countries, use prepaid service, so if they don’t call, cannot run out of credit and buy more cards. How does that helps the company?

    Not everybody has a credit card.

  6. Shareholders: “…and ask that you consider adhering to the practices outlined in the action plan”

    Vodafone: “Okay! We considered it! We’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing. Glad we could help. Next!”

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