UK Web Censorship Filter Controlled by Communist Chinese Front Company
Fears that the UK is moving towards the kind of web censorship system imposed by Communist China have increased after it was revealed that the website filtering blacklist set to be imposed by the end of next year will be controlled by a company with close ties to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
"The pornography filtering system praised by David Cameron is controlled by the controversial Chinese company Huawei," reports the BBC, noting that Huawei's founder is Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in China's People's Liberation Army and and a Communist Party member.
As we reported last week, every Internet user in the UK will have their traffic run through a filtering system that will blacklist pornographic websites. The system set to be used is called Homesafe, which is run by Huawei-subsidiary Talktalk.
Even if the user opts out of the filter, they will "still have their traffic routed through the system." In other countries that have attempted to impose similar systems, political and activist websites have also ended up on the blacklist.
China's Internet censorship system, known as 'the great firewall of China', blocks porn as well as any political content that is critical of the ruling Communist Party. Activists in China who attempt to use the web to express dissent against the state are routinely arrested.
"The alleged links between Huawei and the Chinese State are concerning, as they generate suspicion as to whether Huawei's intentions are strictly commercial or are more political," a recent Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report concluded.
Dr Martyn Thomas, chair of the IT policy panel at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, told the BBC that the process of building the blacklist could ensnare websites that have nothing to do with pornography.
"You could easily imagine a commercial organisation finding itself on that blacklist wrongly, and where they actually lost a lot of web traffic completely silently and suffered commercial damage. The issue is who gets to choose who's on that blocking list, and what accountability do they have?", said Thomas.
Given Huawei's ties to the Chinese government, the process of having Internet traffic routed through their system also raises privacy concerns and the risk that huge databases of private web history could be kept.
According to former head of the CIA and the National Security Agency Michael Hayden, Huawei Technologies has "shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with."
The company was also the subject of a US congressional investigation on national security grounds in 2008 over allegations that Huawei-made telecommunications equipment is designed to allow unauthorized access by the Chinese government and the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
A 2008 DoD report found that Huawei and other related Chinese technology firms "maintain close ties to the PLA and collaborate on research and development."
Technical problems may also arise in terms of Internet bandwidth speed given that the process of running every website through a filtering system can cause lags, as it does in China.
Numerous lawmakers in America have called for a Chinese-style web censorship system to be imposed in the US, prime amongst them Joe Lieberman, who in 2010 told CNN, "Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too."