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10 Dec 2018

Miles Kenyon, Adam Senft & Ronald Deibert, The Citizen Lab

Commentary: Identities in the crosshairs—censoring LGBTQ internet content around the world

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Netsweeper’s filtering technology is often used to limit and block access to certain websites that might be deemed inappropriate... We found that this technology was being used to filter a range of content, including critical political websites, independent media, and religious content... The systematic and widespread blocking of content has a number of adverse effects and contributes to further stigmatization of LGBTQ people in countries which might already be highly discriminatory... From a legal perspective, the use of Netsweeper technology to block access to LGBTQ content raises concerns about violations of a number of internationally protected rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds; and the right to non-discrimination...

[U]nder the [UN] Guiding Principles, companies such as Netsweeper have an independent responsibility to respect internationally-recognized human rights... Our research has demonstrated that the use of Netsweeper’s products and services have significant adverse impacts on the freedom of expression of LGBTQ persons and their access to information. However, it does not appear that Netsweeper has fulfilled its responsibility to respect human rights in the course of its activities. The company has no visible public policy commitment, due diligence process, or remedial measures in place regarding human rights.