2 minute read

With all this ire suddenly released against Google (have we been waiting for them to prove that they weren't perfect?) Yahoo (it's been a while since we got to tear into them), Microsoft (best punching bag evar, OMGLOL) and Cisco (a not-just-software company, for variety), why is everyone walking gingerly around the elephant in the room?

Filtering software providers. They're (drumroll) overwhelmingly American. To quote Boas:

Market conditions have facilitated the imposition of censorship: since 1999, Saudi Arabia has outsourced the provision of censorship software to U.S.-based Secure Computing. Saudi authorities currently rely on the pre-set list of sexually-explicit sites contained in Secure Computing’s SmartFilter software, which is customized with the addition of political and religious sites (Zittrain and Edelman 2002a).

BoingBoing.net got blocked from UAE this past week, which has revealed more countries using SmartFilter, (including most branches of the US Military). Interestingly, while the US Military is proudly listed on their customers page (https://www.securecomputing.com/our_customers.cfm), Saudi Arabia, Iran, and UAE are absent.

Further, the US Gov's getting all paranoid about Israel's CheckPoint Security acquiring Snort (an open-source Intrusion Detection System, it's like anti-virus against hackers).

It's beyond hypocrasy, it's fragmentation, and it's not even (at least at first blush) aligned with foreign policy objectives -- shouldn't we be trying to increase media liberalization and "democractization" in the Middle East? Isn't that the whole idea behind the national security strategy? (Conspiracy Theory: Or maybe some of these filtering systems are crippleware?)