Bahraini Protesters. // Source
On January 7th, Bahrain closed a deal with Canadian web filtering company Netsweeper, Inc., to purchase a “National Website Filtering Solution” for $1,175,000.00. Netsweeper has made several notorious deals in the past with other governments and groups wishing to restrict free speech, as thoroughly documented by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. It is unclear when and how filtering would be implemented, but given recent crackdowns on anti-government protesters, this step appears to be part of a larger strategy aimed at maintaining royal power.
This news highlights an uncomfortable, old, and obvious reality: North American businesses continue to assist oppressive governments around the world, turning a blind eye to the ethical implications of their business practices if a profit stands to be made. Cyberspace, as an increasingly visible territory for political activism and warfare, will continue to be viciously contested terrain where lots of money stands to be made if inconvenient facts can be ignored. The control of the Internet and restriction of free speech in Bahrain is no exception.