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11 Sep 2020

Ryan Gallagher, Bloomberg

Backlash against Sandvine grows after alleged use of its technology to block Internet in Belarus

"U.S. Company Faces Backlash After Belarus Uses Its Tech to Block Internet", 11 September 2020

Sandvine Inc., the U.S. company whose technology helped Belarus block much of the internet during a disputed presidential election last month, promotes its wares with a stark selling point: it can be used to “blacklist” as many as 150 million websites. The private-equity-backed technology firm demonstrated its equipment to a government security team in Belarus in May, two people with knowledge of the matter said, and its marketing materials boast of the blacklisting capabilities, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.

... U.S. Senator Dick Durbin called on the Treasury Department to investigate Sandvine for potential violations of U.S. sanctions on Belarus. For more than a decade, those sanctions have imposed restrictions on U.S. companies from providing funds, goods or services that benefit Lukashenko or others engaged in “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions,” according to Erich Ferrari, a Washington-based sanctions expert.

... During a Sandvine conference call on Thursday, which sought to address employee concerns about its work in Belarus, executives said they had been working with a government organization in the country for more than a year. Sandvine had provided Belarus with technology that is filtering about 40% of all internet traffic moving in and out of the country... They said the work didn’t violate U.S. sanctions... Alexander Haväng, Sandvine’s chief technology officer, acknowledged during the call that Belarus may be using the company’s equipment to block websites and messaging apps, but he said that Sandvine had concluded that the internet, and access to specific material on websites, wasn’t “a part of human rights.”