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West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011

...[In] this paper, we analyze the use of American- and Canadian-made software for the purpose of government-level filtering in the Middle East and North Africa...[The] authors find that nine countries in the region utilize Western-made tools for the purpose of blocking social and political content, effectively blocking a total of over 20 million Internet users from accessing such websites. The authors analyze as well the increasing opacity of the usage of Western-made tools for filtering at the national level... [Foreword:] This is not simply a case of a general purpose, neutral tool being used for an end not contemplated by its maker. The filtering products of today engage in regular communications with their makers, updating lists of millions of websites to block across dozens of content categories, including political opposition and human rights. When McAfee Smartfilter [part of Intel] or Websense do their utmost to maintain lists of non-profit and advocacy groups their efforts directly affect what citizens in some authoritarian regimes can and cannot access online... That Netsweeper publically declares that it offers its software for use to implement government censorship on political and religious grounds highlights the fact that there is currently no effective accountability system on the practices of the commercial software companies vis-à-vis human rights. [Includes Websense response. Also refers to Secure Computing, Tata Indicom (part of Tata Teleservices), Videsh Sanchar Nigam (now Tata Communications, part of Tata Group), BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.), Qtel, YemenNet, du (part of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications), Etisalat, Saudi Telecom, Inet, Teranet, Zad]