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Websense, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Microsoft named in 'censorship' charges
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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North American companies may be providing China with technology used to restrict "fundamental freedoms," says Amnesty International on its web page.

Controls placed on operators and users of the Internet have taken the form of censorship and penalties against all those involved with bulletin boards, chat rooms, e-mail and search engines who contravene Chinese Criminal Law and regulations, it says.

"Foreign companies, including Websense and Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Microsoft, have reportedly provided important technology which helps the Chinese authorities censor the Internet," it states, naming Websense, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Microsoft as firms which "reportedly" provide China with the technology to, "help it shift from filtering content at the international gateway level to filtering content of individual computers, in homes, Internet cafes, universities and businesses"., a Chinese Internet portal, reportedly funded by overseas companies, and financed by leading investment banks and other venture capital firms from the West, reminds those accessing its chat room that "topics which damage the reputation of the state" are forbidden, says Amnesty. "If you are a Chinese national and willingly choose to break these laws, is legally obliged to report you to the Public Security Bureau".

It goes on that in November 2000, the Ministry of Public Security launched its "Golden Shield" project to use advanced information and communication technology to strengthen police control in China and a massive surveillance database system will reportedly provide access to records of every citizen.

"To realise this initiative, China depends on the technological expertise and investment of foreign companies," it states, going on that it has investigated the cases of 33 people detained, or serving long sentences in prison or labour camps, for Internet-related offences.

"Three have died in custody, two of whom reportedly died as a result of torture, and there are reports that others have been tortured or ill-treated in detention," Amnesty says, going on:

"In addition to enforcing controls directly, the Chinese authorities are using a variety of means to force Internet companies to take greater responsibility for implementing the numerous laws and regulations controlling the use of the Internet in China. In March 2002, the Internet Society of China issued The Public Pledge on Self-Discipline which entered into force in August 2002. Signatories to the Pledge agree to:

'.....refrain from producing, posting or disseminating pernicious information that may jeopardise state security and disrupt social stability, contravene laws and regulations and spread superstition and obscenity'.

"Those concerned with the restrictions placed by the authorities on freedom of expression in China regard the Pledge as another means of censoring certain types of information disseminated on the Internet which is deemed to be politically-sensitive.

[But]"In July 2002 the Pledge had been signed by over 300 signatories including the US-based search engine Yahoo!. A lawyer working at Yahoo! reportedly stated that Yahoo! will conform to local laws in countries where it operates(25)."

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