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Western Software Used to Support Censorship

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the two-sides-of-a-coin dept.

Censorship 301

just_another_sean writes "The NYT has an interesting summary of a study done by the OpenNet Initiative about Western software companies developing and profiting from censorship and Internet filtering tools used by repressive regimes. This particular study focuses on censorship in Myanmar, a country that is currently under American sanctions. Are these software companies simply selling a product and should not be concerned with how it is used or are they contributing to the problems of these repressive regimes?"

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Restrict Software Sale! (4, Funny)

Manip (656104) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789646)

What we should do is restrict these evil companies from selling such software, or 'censor' the software companies if you like... That would solve the problem and the world would be a more free and happy place.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (1)

bani (467531) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789655)

it would appear fortinet is indirectly violating sanctions/embargos on myanmar. perhaps it's time to hold them liable -- then they might bother to actually clean up their reseller network.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789667)

Enacting more laws to restrict the actions of people makes the world more free?

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789741)

Your right. When everyone does whatever they want then we are truly "free". Until that point we are not free. I think that anyone no matter how sick and perverted they are should be legally allowed to do whatever they want to whoever they want. What a perfect world that would be!

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (3, Insightful)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789669)

I agree that we can not (or should not) make the selling of any software illegal (although we have done it before, just ask the PGP guy). I think a company like this should be publicly shamed. It should be presented to the public that they are cooperating with these regimes in assisting in the enslavement of their people.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (2, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789736)

Guess we should shame Linus for creating software that lots of oppressive regimes use.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (2, Insightful)

JustADude (895491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789895)

That's completely different, and you know it. This is software specifically created for the purpose of denying information in a controlled manner. The issue isn't whether the software is being used by regimes we dislike, it's the purpose of said software, which is a horse of a different color.

That said, I'm not sure trade embargoes help anything, though I do agree with another poster who suggested a public shaming of these companies. People of conscience wouldn't support American companies building torture devices or weapons for oppressive regimes, but we'll turn a blind eye to the censorship of their people? Why is that?

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (2, Insightful)

k3s (920880) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789765)

Would it be better if the Repressive Regimes used Open Source Software?

It would be easy for them to modify existing application to censor.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (2, Insightful)

eSims (723865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789931)

How is public censorship more acceptable then government censorship?

I am not saying I support what these companies are doing, but bully censoring is still censoring...

Slashdot: Food for Thought, Stuff that Incites

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (2, Insightful)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789963)

How is public censorship more acceptable then government censorship?

One (public "censorship") is an exercising of rights, whereas the other (censorship) is a denial of rights. It's more acceptable in the same way that freedom is more acceptable than slavery.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789954)

>> I think a company like this should be publicly shamed. It should be presented to the public that they are cooperating with these regimes in assisting in the enslavement of their people.

ok. Who decides who deserves this? CNN? Bill Gates? Linus? Your competitor? What if you don't agree? What if it's _you_ being shamed? How do you rebut it? Is it trial by media? Does the person controlling the media decide?

This is what happens with "moral" issues that are not breaking the law. Since they're not breaking the law, there's no police. So that leave vigilantees. Which basically means "I, and enough of my friends can do what we like." ie Anarchy.

That's why the law exists in the first place. By all means write the laws. Then there's a clear line in the sand. By all means start a campaign to change the law. By all means start a campaign to boycott a company. But be prepared for the company to respond - as would be their right. Be prepared to give others the power you so eagerly desire. If someone starts a campaign to boycott _your_ company then don't complain...

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789698)

Moderators: Parent should be +1 Funny, not +1 Interesting. "What we should do is... 'censor' the software companies... the world would be a more free place"

Yes, because censorship is certainly the path to freedom.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789787)

Moderators: Parent should be +1 Funny,

Unless of course he really meant it.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (4, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789702)

Peer to Peer applications can be sold or used for both legal and illegal purposes, ethical and unethical purposes. Same goes for word processors. Webservers. Ftp servers. Linux. Anything. Why should we concern ourselves with whether one particular subset of products are being used for ethical or unethical purposes? We shouldnt restrict these companies at all, what we should do is raise the concerns to a public level and let the individual decide if they want to do business with these companies in any form. The western world is after all a capitalist one.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789708)

Theres also the possibility of a boycott on the likes of Nike. Granted they really don't lower the companies bottom line, especially when the other customer is China or some other large oppressive regime. Still if the protest was loud enough the company starts to look evil and may try to change its image.

Einstien Troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789830)

The truth is Einstein was not a healthy man.

First off his wife [pbs.org] helped him come up with the e=mc^2 theory, yet she received no credit for it.

In the original publishing of the theory in 1905 she was credited with co-author credits [pbs.org]

Another small piece of Einstein history that few people know is the terms of his divorce from his first wife (The woman mentioned above) was that she received all prize money when he wins a Nobel prize for the theory of relativity. He agreed to this and in fact Einstein never saw any of the money when he won the Nobel prize.


Einstein awarded Nobel PrizeAfter seven nominations, Albert wins the 1921 medal for physics. He gives the prize money to Mileva, per their 1919 divorce agreement. It is the smallest cash award since the Nobel Prize was created, worth about $348,000 (in 2003 USD).


Sorry, I can't link to it but it is in the PBS timeline.

The kicker is that after his divorce from the woman who helped make him famous, the guy married his cousin. Yup, his COUSIN!!!!

cousin fucker [wikipedia.org]

So there you have it folks, the man so many think of as a symbol of modern science not only stole ideas (or at the very least refused to acknowledge getting help) from his wife but also decided that it would be fun to screw his cousin.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (0)

chrisnewbie (708349) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789806)

I'm pretty sure i'm going to be trolled but the U.S. is known to aplly contradictory politics to itself.
It prones liberty and disarmement but it sell guns and bombs to countries that keep their own people in complete terror and ignorance of the rest of the world and that goes for software.

But i guess that is what capitalism is all about. Who cares what we sell or do in other country as long as it's not ours.

Re:Restrict Software Sale! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789900)

Come on people... Laissez Faire...

If there is a market for this sort of thing (as miserable as it may be) you freedom touting liberals here at slashdot should not revile this sort of opportunism.

You can't have your cake and eat it too!

Science's "Ivory Tower" issue... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789648)

...transcoded to computer technology.

Re:Science's "Ivory Tower" issue... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789771)

Does that mean that each time this issue comes into play that during its upkeep Science receives an extra life for each of the cards in excess of 4 in its hand?

Re:Science's "Ivory Tower" issue... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789893)

fuck you and the sengir vampire you flew in on!

Here comes the flame war... (2, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789649)

...and allow me to fan it with an analogy:

Are these gun manufacturers simply selling a product and should not be concerned with how it is used or are they contributing to the problem of criminals?

Flame on!

Re:Here comes the flame war... (5, Insightful)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789671)

Selling a gun to a customer and selling a gun to a known murderer are not the same thing. If you sell software that can enforce censorship to countries that practice censorship, you know that they're going to use it for that. Does that make the seller an accomplice? I dunno, ask a cop about selling a gun to a known murderer and whether they could bring someone up on charges for that.

Re:Here comes the flame war... (2, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789684)

Feel free to interchange "gun manufacturers" with "automobile manufacturers" or "producers of alcoholic beverages."

Way to fan it... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789693)

...with an analogy that's got a flamewar of its own.

How about chemical explosives? Used all the time in legal, safe construction and demolition, yet it's often used by terrorists to destroy occupied buildings.

Re:Here comes the flame war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789723)

Not necessarily, but I think this kind of behavior is a bit different than manufacturing a gun. Guns are not explicitly manufactured for illegal behavior in the United States since there is a legal provision for the right to bear arms, namely the second amendment. This situation is different. Should it be illegal for American companies to facilitate censorship by other countries against their citizens? This is tough to answer.

However, these companies are ethically lacking, and I encourage people to not support their unethical behavior. Restriction of fundamental rights is wrong whether it may be legal in a particular country or not. In essence, they're allowing technology to control people and restrict freedom rather than facilitate it, which will only make things worse in the long term. Just because something is legal, does not mean it is moral or ethical. I wish more people understood that, and more corporations took an actual stand for ethics rather than simply make platitudes that look good and benefit the bottom line.

Re:Here comes the flame war... (1)

Earl Shannon (11797) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789744)

Allrighty then. If you really want the flame war, I'll give you a flame war. :) The "right to bear arms" in the constitution pretty much means there's not as much can be done about gun ownership in the United States unless the Constitution is amended. Limits on interaction with other countries by the companies based in the US are not mentioned as specifically being protected in the constitution and so may regulated to the nth degree.



Frankly I believe the right to bear arms should include nuclear weapons!

Re:Here comes the flame war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789854)

The constitution says what the government *CAN* do, if it is not mentioned in the constitution, then the government can't do it.

http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experien ce/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html [archives.gov]

Amendment X:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The government can tax import/exports, but can't restrict them (unless national security is involved).

Re:Here comes the flame war... (1)

ami-in-hamburg (917802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789808)

Gun manufacturers are without doubt NOT responsible for how their products are used. They meet all government requirements for warnings and safety paperwork provided with each purchase. Just like Tylenol, electrical appliances, cars....

Re:Here comes the flame war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789878)

"objects in your telescopic nightsight may appear closer than they are..."

Re:Here comes the flame war... (1)

DataCannibal (181369) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789829)

You overestimate the usefulness of an analogy, which is, I freely admit, a not uncommon failing of many arguments presented on Slashdot, in what is a discussion about a subject which is, by it's very nature, not very amenable to analogies.

What makes it worst is that your analogy is not even a very good one.

All this means as that it's not really worth much time and effort respoding to your post.

Flame off!

Re:Here comes the flame war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789982)

"All this means as that it's not really worth much time and effort respoding to your post."

And yet here you are... :)

Re:Here comes the flame war... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789932)

...and allow me to fan it with an analogy:

Are these gun manufacturers simply selling a product and should not be concerned with how it is used or are they contributing to the problem of criminals?


And allow me to ask, can you use site blocking/filtering software to also feed yourself or defend against a hostile attack? Can you use it to signal someone far away? Do people use the software to hone their skills in any of these areas in a practice setting? Can you use censorship software to do any sort of utilitarian work besides censor someone?

USA is world's biggest arms manufacturer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789966)

..and the #1 distributor of small arms throughout the world.

Know who the next 4 largest arms manufacturers are? That's right: China, Russia, France and the U.K.

The five permanent members of the UN security council are also the world's five largest arms manufacturers!

What about the American Sanctions (4, Interesting)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789658)

From the article:

Myanmar, which has long been under American sanctions

If Myanmar has long been under sanctions, wtf is an American tech company doing there? I mean, aren't American companies, especially technology companies prohibited working with such repressive governments? Or is this simply a case of a company going stealth from the American government simply to make a buck?

Re:What about the American Sanctions (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789689)

Simple enough , they just sell it from "Soft-Corp Canada" or "Soft-Corp Germany"

Re:What about the American Sanctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789699)

the issue isnt american companies being in that country, but these countries getting ahold of american software that would usually be used in environments such as schools or libraries. I'm betting they got ahold of websense.

They can get such software though piracy, or through 3rd parties, or through the internet!

Doesnt mean that we actually sell it to them, by all means, I doubt they even bought it.

Re:What about the American Sanctions (1)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789815)

They can get such software though piracy, or through 3rd parties, or through the internet!

Doesnt mean that we actually sell it to them, by all means, I doubt they even bought it.


That's right - those goddamn gooks stole your software (and hardware) so that they could opress their own people. Everyone knows that Uncle Sam would never get involved in anything like that.

Is the above what you believe or is it just what you want to believe? I ask, because I can't help noticing that some Americans have trouble differentiating between the two. Specifically the religious right.

Re:What about the American Sanctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789721)

don't you realise? there's money to be made! Money > legality > moral decency

Re:What about the American Sanctions (1)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789872)

Read the article and your question will be answered:

For its part, Fortinet says that it uses "a two-tier distribution model," according to a company spokeswoman, Michelle Spolver, meaning that the company sells all of its products to resellers, who sell to end-users.

Re:What about the American Sanctions (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789911)

yes, that is very, very true. The middleman technique often works getting around many kinds of laws. But, I still wonder who their middleman is. If it is another US company, then they would still be breaking the sanction law. My hunch though is it is probably some shady distribtor in China, the Philippines or some other country without sanctions against Maynmar.

Same as file sharing / music cases (1)

QADirector (921173) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789665)

The argument of "just selling software... not concerned with how its used..." has precedence in the file sharing cases. In those, it was not valid for the utilities like Napstar, Morpheus, etc. to simply sell / give away software that is being used for illegal activities. Interesting argument though. See the following situations: Makers of Morpheus Makers of old software application "cracking" software - like Isepic Makers of CD / DVD copying software Sellers of handguns etc. etc.

GOOOOOOOGLE (0)

Ragein (901507) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789666)

Look if gooooogle can censor news in china why should we start to worry about these smaller companies building software too censor and not even putting them into use. Sorry but go after the big companies then all the little ones will follow suit.

Re:GOOOOOOOGLE (1)

Iriel (810009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789887)

The problem with that approach is that the big companies are harder to pin down in court due to the wealth of legal resources they have. The idea the RIAA had worked pretty well: Go after the little guys enough times to set a legal precedent. Then, that precedent makes it easier to take on the generals.

In any case, if it's not us bitching about selling services to help an oppressive government, then it's an oppressive government bitching about us forcing our ethics on them by restrcting the software we sell them. Think about that for a second ;)

Money knows no borders (2, Insightful)

The Infidel (708655) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789675)

Just another example of why we need stricter trade controls. If a US company is selling technology specifically designed to censor the public or if they provide technical support to achieve such an end, they should be fined, and if the offense continues, dissolved. Of course there needs to be clearly defined limits on what constitutes such things, but it needs to be done.

...and the monied have no morals. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789856)

There is no such thing as a rich patriot or a rich Christian. If your preacher wears Satan's leash (a.k.a. a "necktie") why are you putting your soul in jepardy by listening to his evil ravings?

The only thing worse than a preacher in a tie is a preacher in a $4000 suit (e.g. Pat Robertson, Lucifer's lap dog)

Re:Money knows no borders (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789873)

Just another example of why we need stricter trade controls. If a US company is selling technology specifically designed to censor the public or if they provide technical support to achieve such an end, they should be fined, and if the offense continues, dissolved. Of course there needs to be clearly defined limits on what constitutes such things, but it needs to be done.

So we should further expand our tendency to mix values with trade policy? No thanks, we do too much of that already. We're not the world's mommy.

It's technology stupid! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789676)

Not read TFA, but dear lord we've been though this so many times - the technology is an enabler. People can do good things with it, or bad things. voila, that's it.

Re:It's technology stupid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789922)

voila, that's it.

That's one hell of a comment. All this confusion about how to deal with those who profit from censorship, and it turns out that it's just a matter of how people use it.

If I would have only known, I would never have worried about in the first place. I think I'll go have a cup of hot cocoa and go watch the price is right.

They're sticking to basic American principles: (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789680)

... the profit motive rules all. What, you think our companies should worry about the lot of the ordinary citizen, the workers, the guy in the street? That's not American, that's not the Western way, that's communism! You're not a Communist, are you? Why do you hate America so much?

Re:They're sticking to basic American principles: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789851)

They're sticking to basic American principles ... the profit motive rules all. What, you think our companies should worry about the lot of the ordinary citizen, the workers, the guy in the street? That's not American, that's not the Western way, that's communism! You're not a Communist, are you? Why do you hate America so much?

What's this "American principles" crap all about. Were the European countries that the original settlers came from have socialist/communist governments? Can you name an example of any current socialist or communist countries/governments that have industries that are not actively trying to make a profit (after all, it's not that there is a profit to be made, it's where this profit goes (in the pockets of a few, in the pockets of the many)).

Re:They're sticking to basic American principles: (1)

dchallender (877575) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789886)

Damn right, look at the good ol Bush family, happy traders with the Nazis in WWII.
--
Regards Dave
Generated by SlashdotRndSig [snop.com] via GreaseMonkey [mozdev.org]

Re:They're sticking to basic American principles: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789937)

And capitalism served Bush family well, they are very rich after all. Nazis chose socialism and got destroyed. Let that be a lesson to you all.

Should anyone... (3, Insightful)

charlie763 (529636) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789682)

Should AutoCAD be concerned when it's software is used to design weapons? Should I be concerned about paying taxes when that money is used to kill people because they live on the other side of an imaginary line? Should Slashdot editors be concerned when their forums are used to copyright infringe entire articles?

Re:Should anyone... (1)

SlayerofGods (682938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789729)

Well yes... you should be concerned.
But does that we should ban AutoCAD? Shouldn't pay taxes? Should censor Slashdot?
I personally don't think so.

Re:Should anyone... (1)

charlie763 (529636) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789782)

Just so my stance is documented, I agree and I am concerned. We should not ban autoCAD. I'm not so sure about the tax thing. And we should not censor Slashdot or anything else.

Re:Should anyone... (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789989)

The only thing that happens to pacifists is they end up getting killed by those who are realists. Wars are necessary and logical, find your pair and get over it.

Use of software (1, Interesting)

nuggz (69912) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789696)

Yawn a tool is being used for a purpose someone disagrees with.
Is the tool bad, or just that it is being used for that purpose.

Considering 2 examples of filtering/censoring software and p2p file distribution software.

They both have legitimate uses, however they may be used in other manners.

Re:Use of software (1)

radja (58949) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789732)

there is no legitimate use for censoring software. it's only use is censorschip. it is used as it is supposed to be.

Evil? (5, Insightful)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789701)

What I don't understand is how a Western software salesman can be so blinded by profit that they can do this. What do they say to their family when they ask "What did you do today?". "Not much, I just sold a complete filtering solution to the Chinese government in order to help them supress dissent and hunt down pro-democracy campaigners".

We're not talking about a few off-the-shelf copies of Windows here - these are large scale installations.

Re:Evil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789795)

Look, we can't have good without evil so if we're to be the good then we better get in the business of supporting some evil. If you want America to be good then we must support oppressive practices by foreign evils. You want America to be good don't you?

Re:Evil? (1)

JymBrittain (880082) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789828)

Actually, they would probably report that they generated X [m/b]illions of dollars worth of business and kept X number of people employed.

Collaborators (5, Insightful)

rbrander (73222) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789707)

The "two tier model" of which the article speaks is a pathetically small fig-leaf. There is nothing remotely difficult about imposing restrictions on resellers not to sell to repressive regimes or for any use to curtail freedom of speech.

When it's your own country that's repressed by dictators, those who help them do it are called "collaborators" by the rest of the populace. When it's somebody else's country, well... ...I still call them collaborators.

this is like the whole gun control thing (0)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789710)

Don't blame the tool for the way it's used, or the company that made the tool. Blame the jerkoff who is misusing the tool.

Re:this is like the whole gun control thing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789727)


Even if the tool is custom built, installed and configured for a specific purpose?

Not looking at the whole picture... (1)

supersocialist (884820) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789834)

There are good and bad applications for a gun: you can rob people, you can defend people from robbery. What about censorship software? Can anybody come up with a hypothetical situation where it benefits the oh-so-slippery "common good?"

For all y'all who want to make a gun comparison, here's mine: it would be like David Duke going to Smith and Wesson and saying "I need to put down some darkies and your garden-variety black market assault rifle just won't cut it. Can you make me something more powerful?"
  The seller in this case--as in the software case--knows the tool is going to be used badly.

The gun manufacturer has a veil of plausable deniability: they "don't know" where their weapons are going or how they're going to be used. Once you start selling directly to the oppressors, or start selling something with only oppressive applications, you're collaborating.

Greed Kills & Censorship Stifles (4, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789713)

"There's a cat-and-mouse game going on between states that seek to control the information environment and citizens who seek to speak freely online," said John Palfrey, the director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and a researcher with the OpenNet Initiative. "Filtering technologies, and the way that they are implemented, are becoming more sophisticated."
Not surprisingly, repressive governments have been eager buyers of those technologies.


From the CIA 'Factbook' on Myanmar (Burma):
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ bm.html#Govt [cia.gov]

Economy - overview:
Burma is a resource-rich country that suffers from government controls, inefficient economic policies, and abject rural poverty. The junta took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the "Burmese Way to Socialism", but those efforts have since stalled and some of the liberalization measures have been rescinded. Burma has been unable to achieve monetary or fiscal stability, resulting in an economy that suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances - including inflation and multiple official exchange rates that overvalue the Burmese kyat. In addition, most overseas development assistance ceased after the junta began to suppress the democracy movement in 1988 and subsequently ignored the results of the 1990 legislative elections. Economic sanctions against Burma by the United States - including a ban on imports of Burmese products and a ban on provision of financial services by US persons in response to the government of Burma's attack in May 2003 on AUNG SAN SUU KYI and her convoy - further slowed the inflow of foreign exchange. Official statistics are inaccurate. Published statistics on foreign trade are greatly understated because of the size of the black market and unofficial border trade - often estimated to be one to two times the size of the official economy. Though the Burmese government has good economic relations with its neighbors, a better investment climate and an improved political situation are needed to promote foreign investment, exports, and tourism. In February 2003, a major banking crisis hit the country's 20 private banks, shutting them down and disrupting the economy. As of January 2004, the largest private banks remained moribund, leaving the private sector with little formal access to credit.

I wonder what the executives at companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco feel about using their technology to aid oppressive regimes? The whole idea of information sharing and transferral is thrown out the window when you can no longer criticize your goverment or those in power. You then have a dumbed-down version of the software, with no reason to trust or believe anything you read through them since they are easily monitored, and easily censored.


Do the executives at these companies have any morals? How far must it go before they will object to censorship? Is their complacency indicative of their need for more sales or that they just don't care?

Open Source It (1)

JamieKitson (757690) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789714)

Surely if the west stop selling them these proprietry brands of censorship tools they'll just go back to their open source censorship tools. Horrah for open source!

Companies don't make the rules (4, Insightful)

moz25 (262020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789718)

The solution is quite easy: just make laws that forbid companies from supplying such assistance to those regimes. The goal of a company is to make money, preferably within existing laws. It's pretty sure they're not breaking the laws of of e.g. China and Myanmar, so people can only be surprised that companies in the business of making money are trying to make money.

If people are so concerned about democracy, freedom of speech and other bla bla, then why import so many goods from China (repressive communist regime) or import oil from Saudi Arabia (fundamentalist Islamic)? At the end of the day, it's all about the money and practically no one is even marginally innocent in this.

Isn't it already unconstitutional? (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789758)

Don't US laws apply to americans outside the US? If I go on vacation and kill someone can't I be prosecuted when I get home? Or does it depend on weather the victim was American? Along the same lines, if censorship violates the first amendment at home, isn't it also forbidden overseas? And if it does depend on who the victim is, what about Americans visiting these countries?

I see a familiar double standard. The rules only apply to people, not big companies.

Make the steal software (1)

isotpist (857411) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789725)

If you don't sell them the software they will just get it off of bittorrent. Seriously, custom software for governments under sanction is no fair, but beyond that what are the limits, legally and morally.
Do bad people deserve good software?

Simply selling (1)

Xerp (768138) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789726)

Of course they are simply selling a product. In much the same way that gun manufacturers aren't supporting armed crime, and producers of poorly secured software aren't supporting on-line fraud. Heck, they could be selling gloves but that doesn't mean they support "happy slapping"!

Re:Simply selling (4, Insightful)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789763)

Wrong analogy. Selling more bullets to someone you just watched shoot ten people outside your store would be more apt.

Let's apply the grokster ruling (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789731)

Are these software companies simply selling a product and should not be concerned with how it is used or are they contributing to the problems of these repressive regimes?"

Are they selling their product as a censorship product, or as something with multiple uses? Are there "good" uses for products like theirs?

Re:Let's apply the grokster ruling (1)

Antifuse (651387) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789817)

It's a "Web filtering" application. Of course there's "good" uses for a product like this, depending on your point of view. A company's IT department might want to block out things like Hotmail and Gmail to prevent people from using company time to write personal emails (or browsing slashdot on company time... whoops!). A library/school might want to block out adult sites. Unfortunately, there are plenty of wonderful censorship uses for said software as well.

What about portals etc? (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789737)

What about Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc? All of which are falling all over themselves to serve the Chinese market?

Falling over themselves so fast and hard, they're perfectly happy to turn over the names of political dissidents and censor web results so the Great Firewall of China doesn't stick out like a sore thumb? Seems pretty "evil" to me.

Always amazes me that Slashdotters get all up in arms about filtering at their school or work, scream blue bloody murder about censorship...but when Google filters for a whole country, nobody gives a damn.

Re:What about portals etc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789892)

Filter an entire country vs closing all operations in that country. Maybe they should google up a proxy before googling anything political.

Morality (1)

MonGuSE (798397) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789743)

It is a company's obligation to its shareholders, employees, customers and the human race to act in a manner that is at least on the right side of the morality line. Selling software to regimes that are oppressive to further their oppression of human rights is not moral.

Some have suggested that P2P software hides behind an argument in that they are not concerned with its use, however the supreme court has stated that you can not knowing selling something to someone that you know will be used in an illegal manner; be it guns, software, whatever. The gun argument is a little more tricky because a gun is a gun, but some people advocate that everyone has the right to protect themselves and have a gun for 'hunting' and such but they are often not used for that purpose, however I don't know if you can restrict the sales of all guns and make it overly difficult to obtain one without potentially negating a citizen's ability to protect themselves, especially in the type of countries we are talking about.

My 2 cents.

Re:Morality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789863)

It is a company's obligation to its shareholders, employees, customers and the human race to act in a manner that is at least on the right side of the morality line.

No, it's not. The sole obligation a company has is to maximise profit for it's shareholders (publicly traded) or it's owners (privately held). Any thing else is just marketing puff pieces.

You Have Got to Be Kidding (5, Insightful)

craznar (710808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789757)

From country that exports death in a thousand forms - you are worried about a company selling software used for filtering internet traffic.

Is this the same ideology that blanks out Janet's tits, but allows 100 people to be shot in a half hour TV show ?

Get your priorities right.

Re:You Have Got to Be Kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789841)

Did you see how droopy it was, though?

Capitalsm is not always perfect... (3, Interesting)

ameline (771895) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789760)


This story certainly reminds me of what V.I. Lenin said -- "The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them."

(Quote attributed to Lenin, but there's no real documented evidence to support his saying it. Stalin, on the other hand, definitely paraphrased it on at least one occasion.)

Re:Capitalsm is not always perfect... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789814)

I think you mean "I am the walrus."

Once the rockets are up... (2, Interesting)

jmv (93421) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789777)

...who cares where they come down? That's not my department. -- Wernher von Braun

If we make money off it, who cares some will suffer? -- Corporate world

Does this apply to OSS too? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789816)

So what if they use squid and iptables and various other "free" softwares to censor their public? Is that ok?

Priorities (5, Funny)

Bob3141592 (225638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789836)

I am appalled that US software is being used to suppress individual rights overseas, when there's obviously so much more that needs to be done to suppress individual rights here at home.

Free software, anybody? (4, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789859)

And have any writers of "free software" stopped to think what terrible things their software can and is being used for? Should we stop free software makers from distributing their software to anybody who wants it? Or, if a free software program is used to commit, say, war crimes, should its creators be arrested and tried?

Re:Free software, anybody? (1)

P0ldy (848358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789929)

Interesting that you bring that up. The writers of "free software" might not stop to think about it, but the Supreme Court and *AA lawyers surely do. This software is being legislated against already--isn't there a double standard if "bad things" that can be done with free software and "bad things" can be done with software companies are selling? Is copyright infringement or a human rights violation more important?

Re:Free software, anybody? (2, Insightful)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789987)

I see this argument posted about 30 times on this thread. I can't believe that the posters are not able to see the difference between knowingly selling software and services to oppressive regimes, often in defiance of a trade embargo, and having some anonymous person download or buy off-the-shelf software.

Cisco and Microsoft, for example, are quite happy to cooperate with the Chinese government over the "Great Firewall of China". They know who they are selling to and the exact purpose to which their products will be put, yet they still do it.

Western software!? (2, Funny)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789861)

Why aren't they outsourcing this to China?

Sellilng software (4, Insightful)

Bastian (66383) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789866)

If these companies are just selling a product and needn't concern themselves with how it will be used once it leaves their hands, we should be consistent and apply the same thought process to our handling of your local pharmacy's policies on selling opiates or your local gun dealer's policies on selling guns.

Standing up for themselves... (0)

Tominva1045 (587712) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789868)


Perhaps if the citizens of these countries pushed themselves away from their keyboards and took a more proactive, physical interest in the freedoms most westerners think they should have they might be able to choose any software they like.

More bluntly, if they were willing to fight for the freedoms they might someday have Best Buy and CompUSA right at their fingertips.

But articles written by (well meaning) people wearing pointy hats and living in ivory towers ain't going to do it.

Another question: should we force our consumer-based culture on them or allow them to remain in the (oppressive) culture to which they are accustomed.

Does the Prime Directivce apply?

Hey, Ayn Rand Guy! (1)

Grfxho (866867) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789883)

Isn't there an Ayn Rand quote that's perfect for this?

Seriously though, the questioning of the morality of technology should be reserved for those using it for evil--not for the creators or vendors who supply it. I did not hate Chris & Mitch when they made the laser hotter and stronger and used it to make popcorn; I hated the bad professor who wanted to use it for assasination.

Personally, I'd rather see "studies" done on supposed software companies cough*peoplsoft*cough*blackboard*cough* ripping people off with poorly coded, unsecure "solutions" than companies providing technology that works to people who paid money for it...

Unsurprising (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789884)

Under circumstances where money and profit are the moral, religious and primary motivation for business, it's unsurprising that they fail to account for contributing to human suffering or oppression. Look at Nike!

But we certainly don't need more laws or restrictions on its own. What we need are more people who care about the problems and are willing to display the shameful for who and what they are. I think one of the biggest problems in today's society comes from anonymity. After all, if no one knows who you are, then no one will know what you have been doing or whether you are responsible for this that or the other. No face, no shame and somehow no guilt.

The Nike example shows that they are not proud of their approach to manufacturing and will even display signs of shame (even if through denial) for the murky areas in which they are engaged. I don't think that these other companies would be any different... the problem is how to get that stuff exposed in a way that gets enough attention. The media is now owned by the same club membership that is responsible for a lot of the activity we find so repugnant so the dilemma is clear and obvious.

Trading With The Enemy (2, Informative)

cannuck (859025) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789885)

When it comes to greed versus good - the history of corporations in the USA (and other places too) has been anything but stellar. One good read is "Trading With The Enemy" - which shows Dupont supplied the gas to murder millions in the concetration camps, which shows Ford supplied ballbearings for Nazis tanks - which shows the Luftwaffer bombing London with Luftwaffer getting their aviation fuel from Standard Oil (Esso?) - which shows IBM set up the computerized system for the Nazis to track who was put into which concentration camp and/or was murdered or sent off to experimental medical operations - all the while ATT listened to all telephone communications of the Nazis but didn't supply the Allies with any intelligence. All for a blood dollar. Last but not least the head of Dupont was called into the Oval Office by Roosevelt - why? - the head of Dupont through the World Bank (that he headed up) to stop selling the gold that the Nazis took out of the mouths of the millions gased in gas chambers. The laundered money was then sent to the Nazis to buy more bombs - to bomb London! Of course "we" find out about all the horrors years after the fact. I hate to be reading what corporate horror stories are going on now in various parts of the world - 10 years from now.

The Fifth Hope had some good lectures on this ... (3, Informative)

un1xl0ser (575642) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789924)

Burmah (1)

DisprinDirect (755967) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789942)

The correct name for this country is Burmah. The other name "Myanmar" was imposed by an illigitimate government, and therefore is not the legitimate name for this state. Someday in the near future, a democratic and free government will probably change Burmah's name to Mayanmar, but until then, its Burmah

This is News? (1)

wagner.harry (922881) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789959)

This is no different than when US automakers and other corporate fucks did business with nazi germany. These pricks only understand one thing: money, and are only motivated by one thing: greed. This is not news, but 'business' as usual.

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13789984)

There's a market for this software and I'd rather take money from such regimes than let it fund a similar one. You won't change the world by not selling them what they'll eventually be able to buy from someone else. I'm sure there are a lot more worse things that such regimes impose than just restricting internet access. Place a call to Team America: World Police if you're that concerned.

Welcome to this World (1)

fmwap (686598) | more than 8 years ago | (#13789993)

Are these software companies simply selling a product and should not be concerned with how it is used or are they contributing to the problems of these repressive regimes?

Uh...do Antivirus vendors really want to rid the world of viruses?

Do lawyers really want a crime-free America?

Does the president want the war to end?

The answer, of course, is no. Money makes the world go round, and nobody cares about anything else.
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