Middle East censors wield Western software: report

Mar 29, 2011
Photo illustration shows people using the Internet at a web cafe in the Middle East. Even as Western leaders call for democratic freedom in the Middle East, software from US and Canadian firms is being wielded by censors in oppressive regimes, a report has said.

Even as Western leaders call for democratic freedom in the Middle East, software from US and Canadian firms is being wielded by censors in oppressive regimes, a report has said.

Programs crafted to keep children from getting to porn websites or other material deemed off-limits by parents can readily be modified for mass political censorship, according to OpenNet Initiative (ONI) findings.

"Western companies are playing a role in the national politics of many countries around the world," concluded the ONI report authored by Helmi Noman and Jillian York.

"By making their software available to the regimes, they are potentially taking sides against citizens and activists who are prevented from accessing and disseminating content thanks in part to ."

The study looked at Internet filtering programs made by US and Canadian companies.

Censors in at least nine Middle Eastern and North African countries used US or Canadian software to limit what citizens could access on the Internet, according to the report.

Internet service providers in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, and the (UAE) used Western-built filtering tools to prevent block certain online material, ONI said.

Taboo topics included sex, dating services, homosexuality, skeptical views of Islam, and secular and atheist discourse.

Censors also blocked information about ways to remain anonymous on the Internet or circumvent online filters by using "proxy" servers.

"By relying upon out-of-the-box filtering systems, states have outsourced the task of deciding what is or is not acceptable speech," the report's authors said.

The report gave an example of Internet service providers in Qatar, Yemen, and the UAE using filtering made by Canada-based Netsweeper, which reportedly acknowledged working with in those countries.

"Western government leaders have advocated for human rights and the free flow of information in heavily censored countries," the report stated.

"But, we have yet to see concrete initiatives from these governments to address how Western companies are directly collaborating with -- and perhaps profiting from -- the government ."

Explore further: Blink, point, solve an equation: Introducing PhotoMath

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia defends controversial web filter

Dec 16, 2009

Australia on Wednesday dismissed as "baseless" claims it was proposing a China-style plan for mandatory filtering of the internet and denied the system could be abused to silence free speech.

Recommended for you

Ericsson profit down 10 pct despite higher sales

58 minutes ago

Wireless equipment maker Ericsson says its third-quarter earnings slumped 10 percent despite higher sales due to increased operating costs and negative effects from currency hedging.

UK wind power share shows record rise

1 hour ago

The United Kingdom wind power production has been enjoying an upward trajectory, and on Tuesday wind power achieved a significant energy production milestone, reported Brooks Hays for UPI. High winds from Hurricane Gonzalo were the force behind wind turbines outproducing nuclear power ...

Glass maker deals to exit Apple, Arizona plant

3 hours ago

Nearly 2,000 furnaces installed in a factory to make synthetic sapphire glass for Apple Inc. will be removed and sold under a deal between the tech giant and the company that had been gearing up to produce huge amounts of ...

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

5 hours ago

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

epsi00
not rated yet Mar 29, 2011
Even as Western leaders call for democratic freedom in the Middle East, software from US and Canadian firms is being wielded by censors in oppressive regimes, a report has said.


really? by bombing them? Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya. Maybe you can explain to us why the west can live with brutal dictatorships like the Saudis, Bahrein and many others in that region but cannot live with Gaddafi. ( Here's a hint for you: control of oil and putting puppets of ours in power.)