Thursday, June 23, 2005

Blogging, Cisco, and China from Rebecca MacKinnon

A friend passed along this article from Rebecca MacKinnon's blog. She's an ex-China reporter.....

MacKinnon writes:


Confirmed: All Typepad blogs blocked in China

...The Chinese government is mainly to blame for this, but it's important to consider the way in which U.S. technology is being used to stifle free speech in China - and the extent to which U.S. companies are responsible for this usage. This includes not only Microsoft, but also Cisco Systems and others. Here is what Reporters Without Borders had to say about Cisco's complicity in a recent report:

The architecture of the Chinese Internet was designed from the outset to allow information control. There are just five backbones or hubs through which all traffic must pass. No matter what ISP is chosen by Internet users, their e-mails and the files they download and send must pass through one of these hubs.

China then acquired state-of-the-art technology and equipment from US companies. Cisco Systems has sold China several thousand routers at more that 16,000 euros each for use in building the regime's surveillance infrastructure. This equipment was programmed with the help of Cisco engineers. It allows the authorities to read data transmitted on the Internet and to spot "subversive" key words. The police are able to identify who visits banned sites and who sends "dangerous" e-mail messages.

As this excellent article on the issue points out, Cisco denies direct complicity. There is also an argument to be made that the existence of Cisco routers in China on the whole has done more to facilitate free speech than to stifle it.

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