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Suit Accuses Cisco of Aiding Chinese Repression Through Sale of Internet Tracking Software

Posted May 23, 2011 6:25 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Cisco Systems Inc. is accused in a lawsuit of aiding torture and repression in China through sales of surveillance software to the Chinese government.

The suit was filed by members of the persecuted spiritual group Falun Gong, report the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). The plaintiffs claim Cisco’s so-called “Golden Shield” firewall, used to censor the Internet, was used to track Falun Gong members who were then arrested and tortured.

The complaint, filed on Thursday in federal court in San Jose, alleges Cisco sales materials promoted the technology for its dissident-tracking capabilities. Filed with the help of the Human Rights Law Foundation, the suit is based on the Alien Torts Statute, which allows U.S. lawsuits by foreign nationals alleging international law violations.

A Cisco spokesman told the Wall Street Journal there is no basis for the allegations and the company plans a vigorous defense. The company also denied customizing its products in a way to facilitate censorship or repression.

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