August 2, 2005

Say it ain't so, Joe!

I've several times heard the story about Cisco making special routers that help China's government censor the Internet...and they made me so mad I could spit. How could they DO such a thing? So I was very interested in this news story, Critics Squeeze Cisco Over China: (Thanks to Glenn)

Internet equipment maker Cisco Systems is fighting a shareholder action that urges the company to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy for its dealings with the Chinese government, and with other states practicing political censorship of the internet...

But what does Cisco say?

...But Cisco's Terry Alberstein, director of corporate affairs for the Asia Pacific region, says the company has never helped the Chinese government suppress free speech.

"Cisco does not participate in any way in any censorship activities in the People's Republic of China," Alberstein says. "We have never custom-tailored our products for the China market, and the products that we sell in China are the same products we sell everywhere else."...

So what I'm wondering is, is the whole story an urban legend? The article includes this:

...Cisco's routers, the report noted, form the backbone of China's internet access, and include the power to identify and filter packets based on keyword matches -- a tool typically used for fighting viruses and denial-of-service attacks that also makes internet censorship easier for repressive governments...

I suspect that what we have here is an example of the way most advances in crime-fighting have the potential to help repressive governments fight the "crimes" of free-speech or dissidence. The tools that fight spam could easily be used to fight democracy. One wonders if Chinese bloggers are using the same tricks that spammers use to try to fool my spam filter? I get e-mails from "B7e on line P`H A`R M`A C`Y T2O" So maybe Chinesians are blogging about D`E`M`0"c/R"A.cY ?

Posted by John Weidner at August 2, 2005 11:07 PM
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