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China Electronic Frontier Foundation Your Rights Online

EFF Takes On Cisco's Role In China 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the technolegal-quagmires dept.
decora writes "Several years ago, writer Du Daobin posted several essays on the internet, protesting such things as unfair taxes and the corruption of the media. He was then charged with 'inciting subversion of state power,' arrested, and after many legal twists and turns, tortured in prison. Daobin, along with several other dissidents with similar stories, decided to sue Cisco Systems (PDF) earlier this year under the legal theory that it aided and abetted China's violation of the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. As the case moves forward, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security has stepped up its surveillance, harassment, and interrogation of Daobin and the others. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has now joined the Laogai Research Foundation to draw attention to the case. As part of its opening move, it has asked Cisco to make public statements in support of human rights, hoping that the company's influence with the Chinese government will provide some modicum of protection for the threatened dissidents."
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EFF Takes On Cisco's Role In China

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  • by Reverand Dave (1959652) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @10:57AM (#37206482)
    I think it's time we stop letting companies off the hook for helping to subvert freedoms as a course of just doing business. If we allow corporations to just keep walking over our freedoms and violating human rights, just to make a buck or because it's what their customers order they need to be held to account in the same fashion as war criminals and other international criminals. If we are going to berate and sanction china for suppressing freedom, then why are we allowing the people who created the tools that allow them to do it walk away like they had nothing to do with it. If we discourage companies from acting in an anti freedom fashion then perhaps they will think twice about doing it and investors will think twice about investing in them.
    • the US government does business with the Chinese, the US government supports other companies doing business with the Chinese, the US maintains sells bonds to the Chinese.

      Until you hold the US government accountable for its actions how can you hold any corporation accountable? Or is this a matter of one has guns and the other does not?

      Really, how do you permit with one hand and deny with another? Why not penalize the American's who buy goods made in China, why not hold Apple accountable as well, after all th

      • by Tsingi (870990)
        No one is saying that Cisco shouldn't do business with China. You could argue that, but it isn't the issue presented here.
        The issue is that Cisco has set up their equipment in such a way that it can be specifically used to violate human rights. Probably beta tested in the US under the "Patriot Act" which also violates human rights.

        If you want to argue that it should be illegal to do business with countries that violate human rights, the sad fact is that no one should do business with the US. Or almos

      • by andy1307 (656570)

        why not hold Apple accountable as well, after all their products are produced

        Products that we line up to buy....We are just as guilty as the government we accuse of standing by and doing nothing.

    • by OldeClegg (32696)
      Can it be that while we (the USA) strictly prohibit participation in bribes, pay-offs, and gifts to overseas customers, putting us at a big competitive disadvantage , hanging a security badge on the sale insulates our vendors from further ethical obligation? Is that it?

      Don't bother asking regular Cisco employees in silicon valley. In today's employment climate, we certainly cannot expect domestic employees of our multinationals to say anything - they're all afraid of defaulting on their mortgages, at th
    • by jiteo (964572)
      We let companies off the hook for the same reasons we fight for BitTorrent to be allowed unimpeded, or are against gun control. Companies make and sell tools, they are not responsible for the use people make of those tools.
    • by jandersen (462034)

      I think it's time we stop letting companies off the hook for helping to subvert freedoms as a course of just doing business

      Very true - and, I think, a sentiment that resonates strongly with the best in Socialism, much as I'm sure you'll hate me for saying so.

      It has always been too simple to say that "So and so government oppresses whatever"; reality is far too complicated for that to be true. And it is worth remembering that whereas states are (at least in principle) sovereign withing their own borders, many multinational companies are in a position to flick their finger at most countries; which they routinely do.

      And, just to r

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @11:03AM (#37206582)

    "At Cisco, we strive to provide excellent products and services in the network backbone and infrastructure space. Our company philosophy discourages all forms of discrimination, violence and abuse, including human rights abuses. Although we will never condone the suppression of free speech, or torturing of political prisoners, we are bound to the laws of any country in which we operate. Cisco recognizes the law of the land and will act accordingly."

    In other words, we aren't taking a stand. You can forget about that that, buster.
    They can say lots of things without saying anything.

    • ...Our company philosophy discourages all forms of discrimination, violence and abuse, including human rights abuses....

      In other words, we aren't taking a stand. You can forget about that that, buster. They can say lots of things without saying anything.

      So... they just "discourage" human right abuses. Like in "I hope you don't abuse our surveillance tools, or else we would be very sad and cry a little".

    • Cisco recognizes the law of the land and will act accordingly."

      Roger that.

      Oh, "and [we] are not responsible anything that happens, GOOD or bad, unless it's GOOD, as a result of local, territorial, national, or *whisperquick* int'l LAW that is beyond the scope of our DIRECTLY and closely-monitored legal responsibility. *mumblemumble* Customer *mumble* quality *grumble* provide *mumble* innovation *slidemumble*"

      Is that pretty close to daily business speak? I've been there, man. Don't tell me I'm nuts :)

      • But *which* land? Remembering the google spat, China kicked them out of the country while pointing out that if you don't comply with Chinese law, you can't do business in China.
    • You're right. Right now, Huawei and HP (a.k.a. H3C) are kicking Cisco's butt in China. Cisco is not about to make things worse by pissing the government off.
  • by fredrated (639554) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @11:10AM (#37206682) Journal

    and have no risk of law suit, why shouldn't the Chinese be able to also?

    • I think the most honest answer to that question is simply that "them" is more evil than "us".

    • We are not supposed to be doing those things. The fact that we are is an embarrassment and needs to be corrected immediately. the Chinese do not get a free pass just because the US government is hypocritical.
  • Here [cisco.com]

    Of course, it doesn't stop them mistreating or firing US employees by the thousands.
  • Following the same line why not ban companies from hiring from foreign countries with lower minimal wages? Selling retired weapons to build theme parks, anyone? Why not attack the root of the problem which is an oppressive government? Oh, btw, borrow trillions from such a government is obviously not good for the protection of human rights, right?
    • Nobody thinks borrowing from China is a good idea. How do we stop, though? They have ALL THE MONEY, because federally mandated accounting practices that keep giant corporations from telling complete fabrications to their shareholders caused all our industries to believe that moving to China was the best cost-cutting measure ever.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        because federally mandated accounting practices that keep giant corporations from telling complete fabrications to their shareholders caused all our industries to believe that moving to China was the best cost-cutting measure ever.

        I can understand China being seen as a cost cutting measure. Do you actually mean to imply that part of the problem is a lack of accounting fraud and that corporations should be able to present inaccurate data to share holders?

    • Because the people under that oppressive government make most of our stuff and do so for wages that couldn't buy lunch in the US. The people want their cheap tat, and China is the way to get it. In such vast quantities that to cease trading with China would result in many years of recession, even more so than now.
  • by jburroug (45317) <slashdot.acerbic@org> on Thursday August 25, 2011 @12:01PM (#37207444) Homepage Journal

    I applaud the EFF's efforts here but I seriously doubt this will make a difference on the ground in China, even if Cisco were to see the light and speak up on behalf the dissidents. I also think the EFF is mistaken about which way influence flows in the CCP-Cisco relationship. Like any Western company doing major business with China, Cisco has had to jump through all sorts of hoops, hand over a large amount control of local operations to party apparatchiks and work under contracts that change significantly and frequently after being signed.

    Cisco's position in China is so compromised at this point that I don't see how they could stand up to the CCP in this case without pulling out of the Chinese market entirely and I just don't mean stop selling in China. They have suppliers, production facilities, hundreds of directly employees not to mention billions of dollars of IP in China. All of that is vulnerable to CCP action if Cisco were to get on their bad side. China isn't like the West, the government won't need warrants or due process to arrest Cisco employers, seize facilities and IP or just choke off Cisco's supply train like they did with rare earths a few months ago.

    Cisco is in too deep to take a stand at this point, they have more to lose than the CCP does. The CCP has demonstrated repeatedly that human rights aren't a concern for them and given their hostile reaction whenever a Western government or NGO (Nobel Committee) explicitly or implicitly criticizes their human rights record they aren't exactly concerned about their international image either. Cisco on the other hand pretty much can't win this no matter what they do. Just like most any Western company doing big business in China these days.

    Cheers,

    Josh

    • by Tsingi (870990)

      Like any Western company doing major business with China, Cisco has had to jump through all sorts of hoops, hand over a large amount control of local operations to party apparatchiks and work under contracts that change significantly and frequently after being signed.

      They don't actually have to do any of that, assuming that a legitimate scenario is to not do business with China at all. Which of course it is not.

      Cisco is in too deep to take a stand at this point, they have more to lose than the CCP does. The CCP has demonstrated repeatedly that human rights aren't a concern for them and given their hostile reaction whenever a Western government or NGO (Nobel Committee) explicitly or implicitly criticizes their human rights record they aren't exactly concerned about their international image either. Cisco on the other hand pretty much can't win this no matter what they do. Just like most any Western company doing big business in China these days.

      LOL! Yeah, and in this respect, the Chinese government is much more honest and open than the corporations it does business with.

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation should offer university level classes for people interested in issues surrounding internet and information freedoms... ...just so they could sell EFF U sweatshirts.

  • by Hizonner (38491) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @04:08PM (#37211406)

    Cisco makes gear to let governments spy on their citizens. Every major network equipment manufacturer makes it. All of them. Every major network operator buys it. Practically every government requires it if you're going to build a public network. They sell it, and, yeah, that means they support it, in every sense of the word.

    It's called "Lawful Intercept" by its friends, and "sleazy narcing" by its enemies.

    It's an idea pioneered right in the U S of A. CALEA, Baby.

    Sometimes it's used for Good(TM) and sometimes it's used for Evil(TM). No government is immune to the Evil. The US government, specifically, is almost certainly abusing it, and even if it's not, the EFF sure thinks it is.

    Even if it's not being abused in the sense of illegal use, it's being used heavily to enforce laws the EFF and its main backers don't agree with.

    So why isn't the EFF coming down on Cisco for selling such equipment in the US? It's not like the EFF believes the US is pure. Nor any of the many other major governments.

    The fact is that all the network gear makers sold out ages ago, back when this whole spying thing first came up in the US. The precedent is set, the principle is established. There's no going back. Governments get what they want on the Net, period. US, China, North Korea, whoever.

    At this point, it's self help. Encrypt your data, use relays, use steganography, whatever. But it's way too late to try to fix the equipment makers. The EFF is just grandstanding.

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