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Cisco Denies Aiding Chinese Web Censorship

Cisco on Tuesday went before a Senate subcommittee and denied aiding the Chinese government in blocking access to the Internet.

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"Cisco does not customize, or develop specialized or unique filtering capabilities, in order to enable different regimes to block access to information," Chandler told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law.

Cisco, along with Yahoo and Google, went before the Senate subcommittee Tuesday to discuss Internet freedom.

A strong focus was on Cisco, which came under fire when a 90-page internal PowerPoint presentation from 2002 that Cisco had prepared for the Chinese government recently surfaced. The presentation included a slide that indicated that Cisco would be willing to help the Chinese government combat groups that speak out against the government.

Chandler said he was "appalled" and "disappointed" when he saw the slide and noted that it in no way reflects Cisco's view. The 90-page presentation, Chandler said, was created by a lower-level engineer who still works for Cisco.

"In no case does the document propose that any Cisco product be provided to facilitate the political goals of the government and no reference to applications of our products to the goals of censorship and monitoring," Chandler said, the Associated Press reported.

Shiyu Zhou, a deputy director at the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, disagreed, however. He said the PowerPoint presentation shows that Cisco is targeting China's government Internet monitoring and censoring division, known as "China's great firewall," as a customer.

"Cisco can no longer assure Congress that Cisco China had not been and is not now and accomplice in partnering with China's Internet repression," Zhou said, according to the Associated Press.

But in his testimony, which was publicly available online, Chandler said that is not the case.

"Allegations that Cisco has built a 'great firewall' in China or elsewhere confuse the provision of the basic pipes of the Internet, which include basic security features that every network must have, with more specific technological mechanisms which may be implemented to achieve the invasive effects that have raised specific concerns," he said.

In a blog post following the hearing, Chandler continued that "Cisco is proud of the role it has played in bringing the benefits of Internet technology to people of all nations."

He wrote that the hearing focused on the rapid growth of the Internet globally and the challenges posed when nations implement policies related to Internet controls.

In the blog, Chandler strongly notes that "Cisco sells the same products globally, and does not modify its products for any government."

While Cisco's routers and switches include basic features that are essential to fundamental operation of the Internet, like blocking hackers and protecting from worms, Chandler wrote that those same features "without which the Internet could not function effectively, can unfortunately be used by network administrators for censorship purposes."

Still, Chandler stuck to his guns, reiterating that Cisco doesn't customize or create solution to aid countries in filtering and blocking access to information. However, "since Cisco is not a service or content provider or a network manager, we cannot determine how those features are used in day to day network operation," Chandler said.

Chandler concluded that Cisco complies with all U.S. Government regulations that control the sale of its products, and noted that continuing to do business with China will remain important to Cisco.

"Every president since Nixon " Republican or Democrat alike " has concluded that economic engagement with China was a positive policy for the United States and we support these view in conducting business in China," he wrote.

Along with Cisco, executives from Google and Yahoo also appeared. Both companies have been accused by rights activists of being too cooperative with Chinese authorities. According to Reuters, both companies said they would be open to a proposal that would establish a code of conduct for dealing with Internet censorship and have companies subject to outside monitoring.

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