x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tackling rights and wrongs of internet

Michael Newman, the chief executive of the internet filtering company Websense, has called on US businesses to stop selling to repressive regimes software that censored online content.

This month, Michael Newman, the chief executive of the internet filtering company Websense, called on US businesses to stop selling to repressive regimes software that censored online content.

"Given the role of the internet in the recent Arab Spring uprisings, it is little wonder repressive regimes seek to stifle online education and communication that they see as threatening," he said in a blog post.

"Is it appropriate for American businesses to claim that technology is morally neutral, and therefore absolve themselves of responsibility for its use?" he added.

Websense has been a lone player in implementing an anti-censorship policy that prohibits the sale of its products to oppressive governments.

And the company says it has lived up to this policy when it blocked the sale of its software to Syria this year.

The Global Network Initiative

There are businesses such as Websense that are encouraging their peers not to sell their surveillance technology to repressive regimes, but there are also non-profit organisations (NGOs) fighting for the cause.

A group of multinational corporations, NGOs and universities set up the Global Network Initiative (GNI) in 2008 to monitor internet censorship and protect the internet privacy of users.

Its members include Microsoft, Yahoo and Google.

And the GNI members get real-time problem-solving support from fellow members with regard issues such as being under increasing government pressure to comply with domestic laws and policies that require censorship and disclosure of personal information in ways that are in conflict with internationally recognised human rights.

gvanzyl@thenational.ae