Exporting Censorship

Xeni Jardin has a nice peice in the NY Times about exporting censorship:

American technology companies are taking heat for helping China’s government police the Internet. But this controversy extends well beyond China and the so- called Internet Gang of Four: Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft. Just how many American companies are complicit hit home for me last month when readers of BoingBoing.net e-mailed us to say they had been suddenly denied access.

The cause was SmartFilter, a product from a Silicon Valley company, Secure Computing.

SF classified BoingBoing as “nudity” a category which most filtering admins block. This affects many schools, libraries, corporate offices, and even entire countries. (In fact ICE is classified as “hacking” and they won’t change it).

Secure Computing refused to provide me with a list of the governments that use its filters. However, the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership between the University of Toronto, Cambridge University and Harvard Law School, has compiled data on how such products are used in foreign nations where censorship is easy because the governments control all Internet service providers.

The initiative found that SmartFilter has been used by government-controlled monopoly providers in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. It has also been used by state-controlled providers in Iran, even though American companies are banned from selling technology products there. (Secure Computing denies selling products or updates to Iran, which is probably using pirated versions.)

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