Off the censor ship? Vows about Pakistan by Cisco, McAfee; PayPal revises e-books policy

• There are reports this week that a handful of tech companies, including Cisco and McAfee, have vowed not to heed Pakistan’s call for technology to censor the Internet in that country.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Pakistan had solicited bids from tech companies for the “development, deployment and operation of a national-level URL filtering and blocking system.” The $10 million project seeks a system that would have the ability to block up to 50 million URLs.  The deadline for the bids was Friday. Some have urged Pakistan to put its plans on hold, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times wrote Thursday that a group in Pakistan had urged several companies not to provide filtering technology to the government, and that some of them — Verizon and Websense, as well as the two Silicon Valley companies mentioned above — had agreed. Would-be activists take note: As the NYT says, we’re seeing the results of advocacy groups taking the offensive and identifying companies before they have a chance to make controversial deals. In this case, it would be bad PR for companies to be associated with such a high-profile censorship project.

Cisco’s vow is notable because it has been criticized about — and sued over — supplying technology to China, which censors the Internet. (See Quoted: Cisco in China, knowledge vs. intentions and China and censorship questions for Cisco, Microsoft and Facebook.) Likewise, Intel-owned McAfee was last year identified by the Wall Street Journal as a company that provides filtering software to ISPs in countries in the Middle East that block certain websites.

Meanwhile, Andy Greenberg of Forbes reports that Sunnyvale-based Blue Coat Systems is among the companies that have “conspicuously declined to comment” about whether they are bidding for Pakistan’s business.

• Last week, GMSV mentioned that PayPal had threatened to suspend accounts of publishers of e-books with themes of rape, incest and others. (See Quoted: on PayPal and e-book censorship.) This week, after protests by authors and others, the eBay online-payments division said it would loosen its policy. According to Reuters, PayPal will limit its policy to e-books containing potentially illegal pornographic images and text-only books with child-porn themes.



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  • Bryan

    As an American, I live in a nation the economy of which is predominately dependent upon the production, sale, and use of weapons, which is to say, “defense,” which is to say, death. We not only remain perpetually at war so that this system can profit a small percentage of the populace, but sell these products to others, even when those others are likely to use the weapons they buy from us against us.

    Laughters or tears is the only sane response to having one corporation debate the ethics of censoring people while the one next door profits from killing them. Sometimes it’s even the very same group of people.

    Given our history, I predict we’ll do both: censor them as we kill them, and profit from both.