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U.S. Products Help Block Mideast Web

Author: Paul Sonne & Steve Stecklow, Wall Street Journal, Published on: 28 March 2011

McAfee [part of Intel]...has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems…has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used...to block websites...A regulator in Bahrain, which uses McAfee's SmartFilter product, says the government is planning to switch soon to…Palo Alto Networks… Netsweeper…has landed deals in the UAE, Qatar and Yemen, according to a company document. Websense...has a policy that states it "does not sell to governments or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that are engaged in government-imposed censorship." But it has sold its Web-filtering technology in Yemen, where it has been used to block online tools that let people disguise their identities from government monitors… Websense's general counsel said in a 2009 statement about the incident: "On rare occasion things can slip through the cracks."... Joris Evers, a McAfee spokesman [said,] "Obviously what an individual customer would do with a product once they acquire it is beyond our control." A spokesman for Blue Coat made similar points..."They could build into the software something that signals and, in fact, sends back to them exactly what kind of filtering is taking place," says Jonathan Zittrain, a professor…at Harvard Law School. "...it's just their customer wouldn't like it."...Two years ago, OpenNet Initiative researchers found that Yemen was using filtering software from Websense to block privacy tools. In response, the company said it stopped providing the ISPs involved with its latest website-block lists since the ISPs violated its anticensorship policy. The new OpenNet report says Websense tools and services appeared to still be used in Yemen as recently as August. The company declined to comment. The report also found that in January, new filtering software was being used in Yemen from…Netsweeper. "Filtering decisions are made by the entity that decides to filter," says Scott O'Neill, Netsweeper's director of sales and marketing. "Much as Ford Motor Co. can't decide how [its customers] are going to drive their cars." [also refers to Qualitynet, Batelco, Du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications)]

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Related companies: Batelco McAfee (part of Intel) Netsweeper