Censorware & Scrutiny
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Xeni Jardin argues that, while Google’s agreement to censor search results for the Chinese government has led to public scrutiny, very little attention has been paid to American companies’ sale of censorware to repressive regimes from around the world.
One of our most laudable national goals is the export of free speech and free information, yet American companies are selling censorship. While some advocates of technology rights have proposed consumer boycotts and Congressional action to pressure these firms into responsible conduct, a good first step would be adding filtering technologies to the United States Munitions List, an index of products for which exporters have to file papers with the State Department. While this won’t end such sales, it will bring them to light and give the public and lawmakers a better basis on which to consider stronger steps.
If American companies are already obligated to disclose the sale of bombs and guns to repressive regimes, why not censorware?