Middle East brutality brought to you by good old capitalism:
As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites.
McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee’s Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region.
A regulator in Bahrain, which uses McAfee’s SmartFilter product, says the government is planning to switch soon to technology from U.S.-based Palo Alto Networks Inc. It promises to give Bahrain more blocking options and make it harder for people to circumvent censoring.
Netsweeper Inc. of Canada has landed deals in the UAE, Qatar and Yemen, according to a company document.
Websense Inc. of San Diego, Calif., has a policy that states it “does not sell to governments or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that are engaged in government-imposed censorship.” But it has sold its Web-filtering technology in Yemen, where it has been used to block online tools that let people disguise their identities from government monitors, according to Harvard University and University of Toronto researchers.
Websense’s general counsel said in a 2009 statement about the incident: “On rare occasion things can slip through the cracks.”