A Canadian tech company has come under fire for allegedly providing filtering software censoring LGBTI content to anti-LGBTI governments.
LGBTI advocacy group All Out has teamed up with Mexican organization R3D, which defends human rights in the digital world, to shed a light on the issue.
The two have joined forces to urge Canadian company Netsweeper to stop providing LGBTI censorship filters to homophobic governments. Moreover, the LGBTI group wants to ensure that tech companies don’t use such technologies to violate human rights.
Activists started an online petition to put an end to this LGBTI-related content censorship. They addressed Perry J. Roach, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Netsweeper Inc.
They also reached out to the Canadian government, which agreed to review their recommendations.
‘Helping countries like the UAE censor LGBTI content online, including life-saving information on HIV prevention, is a gross violation of international human rights guidelines,’ Senior Campaigns Manager at All Out Yuri Guaiana told Gay Star News.
‘We are glad the Canadian government agreed to review our recommendation that any additional financial support to Netsweeper will be made conditional on their commitment to human rights.’
Guaiana furthermore said that more than 27,000 people have signed the petition so far. They are asking Netsweeper to stop providing these filters censoring content identified as ‘Alternative Lifestyles’.
‘We’ll keep demanding that,’ Guaiana also added.
This is not the first time Netsweeper has faced criticism.
Last year, Citizen Lab, a security and human rights research group run out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, published a report on the use of Netsweeper in 10 countries cited for systematic human rights problems. They analyzed activities in countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, India, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen.
‘Netsweeper’s services can easily be abused to help facilitate draconian controls on the public sphere by stifling access to information and freedom of expression,’ said Ronald Deibert, who runs Citizen Lab.
The report also explains how the technology provided by Netsweeper works.
The software blocks Google searches for LGBTI-related keywords and non-pornographic websites by mischaracterizing them as sexually explicit.