Cisco Says It Does Not Help China Censor Web

    May 21, 2008

Cisco Systems Inc. defended itself against a human rights group’s claims that the company aided Chinese officials in building a "great firewall" to block Internet user’s access to anti-government content.

Cisco is the largest producer of networking equipment and sells the same products worldwide. It does not customize the equipment to help repressive governments censor the Internet, General counsel Mark Chandler said at a Senate hearing Tuesday. The company’s routers and switches have basic security features that protect networks from viruses and service interruptions, he said.

"Those same features, without which the Internet could not function effectively, can unfortunately be used by network administrators for political purposes,” he said. "Cisco is not a service or content provider, nor are we a network manager who can determine how those features are used.”

Shiyu Zhou, deputy director of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium said Cisco could be offering, "censorship training" to Chinese authorities. A 2002 internal company document lists China’s "Golden Shield" censorship project as one of Cisco’s "major target customers," Zhou told the Senate human rights subcommittee.

The company’s PowerPoint presentation noted the Chinese government’s goal to combat political dissidents and referred to the banned Falun Gong spiritual group as an "evil cult," Zhou said.

That part of the document was a quote from an official Chinese government statement condemning "hostile elements," Chandler said. The presentation was done by a Chinese engineer working for Cisco.

 "We regret that the engineer included that in the presentation, even by way of explaining the Chinese government’s goals,” Chandler said. "We disavow the implication that this reflects in any way Cisco’s views or objectives.”