TELUS International Statement Before Parliamentary Hearing in Bulgaria, January 26

Madam Chairwoman, Ms. Konstantinova,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon!

Let me start by thanking you for offering TELUS International the opportunity to clarify who we are and what we do within Bulgaria. We believe it is important for legislators to have access to facts in order to fulfill their function, and unfortunately certain falsehoods have circulated recently regarding TELUS International and the work that we perform within Bulgaria.

I have traveled here with my colleague Michel Belec from Canada to answer as many of your questions as I can because TELUS International is a strong supporter of government consultative processes. In addition, we are proud of the valuable work our teams perform to support a positive and safe online environment. We are committed to ensuring our team members are also able to enjoy a safe working environment.

We have been invited here today to specifically respond to questions related to social media in Bulgaria and freedom of speech. In respect of possible questions from the Committee, TELUS International is fully committed to answering questions based on our information and understanding; however, our responses are subject to some restrictions. As identified in our written response to the Committee’s invitation, we have industry standard non-disclosure commitments to our clients that prohibit us from discussing the terms of client service agreements or our client’s information and business processes. Accordingly, any answers we provide regarding our services are generic descriptions that are not attributable to any specific client.

We know the committee has requested responses to specific content review practices on the Facebook platform. TELUS International cannot speak on behalf of Meta, and for the confidentiality reasons noted above we will not respond to questions relating to the specifics of the content review process of our customers (including Meta). As advised by the Chairwoman’s opening comments, we understand that Meta has provided the Committee with written responses to cover this topic. For the benefit of other participants at this meeting it is worth noting that there is robust information on content review processes, including review guidelines, available from the online platforms themselves. I would also like to confirm that TELUS International does not set content review policies, instead we apply the policies of our clients and comply with applicable laws.

I believe we all share the understanding that content review is a difficult yet necessary task. Organizations involved in this work make decisions intended to create a safe and positive environment while balancing competing objectives. We believe there is value in ensuring an objective and fact-based discussion of these nuanced issues, and we are encouraged by your committee’s interest in this area.

We have also come to Bulgaria to support our TELUS International team members. Over the last two months, false accusations have been made against TELUS International Bulgaria claiming that our company and team members intentionally support the Russian government by targeting and wrongfully “blocking” Facebook users’ accounts and removing posts that criticize Putin and the Russian government, while intentionally leaving pro-Russian propaganda on the platform. As a result of these totally unfounded accusations, TELUS International and our employees have been subject to a number of derogatory publications that have elicited threats and harassment for many of our team members. Our team is understandably intimidated and exhausted by the ongoing situation. Let me be crystal clear on this point: the harassment of our employees must stop, and we will take all necessary steps to support our team.

I think it’s also important to mention for the record that TELUS International does not have and never has had any ties to the Russian government. We are a Canadian controlled public subsidiary of TELUS Corporation, a respected Canadian communications technology company. Since the beginning of the war, TELUS Corporation and TELUS International have actively supported Ukraine and its people. Our company was among the first to lend a hand to Ukrainian refugees across the globe. To date, global donations to help the people of Ukraine from the TELUS group, total more than $3.5 million Canadian dollars. Before the questions start I would also like to confirm that TELUS International does not set content review policies, instead we apply the policies of our clients and comply with applicable laws.

We are aware that there is a draft law proposed by Mr. Bozhanov (Boo-jya-nof) and other members of the Bulgarian Parliament based on the Digital Services Act of the European Commission. As a member of the industry we are interested and willing to participate in the relevant public consultation activities related to the EU regulation and initiatives by Member States like Bulgaria to create local implementation legislation.

As a global company with over 70 000 team members, TELUS International remains committed to supporting economic growth and actively giving back to the communities where we operate. Our team members have volunteered more than 45,000 hours to local Bulgarian charitable initiatives and in addition to the $3.5 million dollars of relief for Ukraine mentioned earlier, our company is also proud to have given back more than 2.2 million Bulgarian lev to local communities including funding provided through our TELUS International Bulgaria Community Board.

Thank you for the opportunity to share this statement with you today. On behalf of TELUS International’s leadership team, I confirm that we share your commitment to protecting freedom of speech on Bulgaria’s online platforms, while at the same time protecting our team members.

With that, ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to take your questions.

Thank you!

Marilyn Tyfting
Chief Corporate Officer
TELUS International

Download TELUS International statement in English and in Bulgarian