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Surprising Science

American Tech Stifles Revolutions

As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: its companies provide much of the technology used to block websites.

While Internet filtering technology is mostly benign in free societies, in oppressive ones, it can be used to restrict access to information. “McAfee Inc. has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee’s Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region.”


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