When Governments Curtail Freedom: A Tale Of Censorship, Huawei, and Blue Coat


If you want to know anything about almost anyone, you could usually find it on the web.  If you’re not happy with your government, you can easily find sites that welcome trash-talking government officials or even the government itself.  Gossips, facts, conspiracy theories and a lot more are on the web.  But what if your government could filter the sites on the web, only allowing approved sites to be viewed?  What if access to sites that lets you monitor current protests against the government were blocked?  Would you even think much about it or just brush it off as not that big of a deal?  What if someone tells you that your government is blocking, tracking, and listening in on all your calls?  Would you still brush it off?  I know those scenarios seem like they’re from Hollywood flicks, hard to swallow and hard to believe.  But what if I tell you that all of those things are real?  That people are dying and you can’t do anything about it because you don’t even know it’s really happening.

Internet and mobile censorship might not be happening here in the US, (or maybe it is?) but in the Middle East, all those movie-like situations is real and that’s reality.  In late October, an article on the Wall Street Journal discussed how Blue Coat devices were being illegally used in Syria to filter, monitor or block websites in their country.  According to Blue Coat they sold their filtering appliances to Dubai where it was supposed to be used by the Iraqi government but the appliances somehow made their way to Syrian soils.

“We don’t want our products to be used by the government of Syria or any other country embargoed by the United States,” Steve Daheb, Blue Coat senior vice president, said, in the company’s first detailed explanation of the matter. He said the company is “saddened by the human suffering and loss of human life” in Syria.

“At the present time, the company cannot confirm how the appliances were transferred from the point of shipment or from Iraq to Syria,” Blue Coat’s Mr. Daheb said. The company is “continuing its own internal review.”

And now, Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company is said to be involved in censoring information or monitoring and tracking users to help out the Iranian government.

Huawei said in a statement, “Huawei’s work in Iran is no different than our work in any other market and we are only involved in the R&D, manufacturing and sales of telecommunications equipment that is for commercial and civilian use in Iran and other markets in which we operate.”

“We have never been involved in and do not provide any services relating to monitoring or filtering technologies and equipment anywhere in the world.”

Egypt also suffered censorship not too long ago when Internet service was cut-off after anti-government protest began in Cairo.  It was like all communication going in and out of Egypt was deliberately shuttered so no one would know what was happening in there.

The above cases aren’t really new as governments from all over the globe practice some sort of censorship but maybe not as freedom-curtailing as the above mentioned.  France monitors piracy with their three-strike law; Europe blocks child pornography sites; New Zealand not only blocks child porn sites but also file-sharing of such content.  As you can see, not all forms of censorship is bad, some of them are actually protecting us.  Though we think we’re adults, some of us still act like a child and most of us need someone to supervise us or punish us.  Just like what happened in London back in August when all hell broke loose because of irresponsible use of social media.  Could you really blame RIM if they wanted to investigate all BBM accounts?  People got hurt, businesses were ruined and lives were forever changed because of irresponsible use of social media.  Think about it, if you were an innocent bystander caught in the riot and you or someone you love got hurt or you lost your business because of the riot and you found out everything happened because some idiot decided to invite everyone to cause chaos, wouldn’t you want to find out who that idiot was so you can smack him in the head or make him pay for all the damages?

Honestly, censorship, like anything in this world, can be used either for good or bad.  If technology was used for the right reasons, for the good of the many and not just the few, then there’s no need for censorship unless you, the government is the one hiding something.  Freedom is as important as air, and the more you take it away, the more people would struggle.  But keep in mind, it is not called freedom when you’re goal in life is to hurt people because your mantra in life is “I’m free to do anything I want,” that is not freedom, that’s called being inconsiderate and selfish.