Business and Censorship

While reading about the politics and history of Burma on Wikipedia (new window) I came across an interesting fact about a company called Fortinet. It is reported that their software is used to censor the internet in Burma and restrict access to information of which the military dictatorship does not approve. Fortinet suggested they were “investigating” the situation saying their software may have been sold by a third party. Meanwhile, the Burmese government reports on their web site that representatives from Fortinet came and gave a presentation in Burma!

As a small sidenote, I call it Burma and not Myanmar because Burma is the name given to the country by those who do not recognise the ruling military junta (according to Wikipedia).

It leads to interesting questions about the business of censorship. Is it morally repugnant for a government to censor its population’s access to the internet? I think most people feel it is. Is it morally repugnant for a company to censor it’s employee’s access to pornography? I’d suggest most people feel it’s not. What about an ISP censoring its customer’s access? That’s probably more of a grey area. At what point do you draw the line?

Is it morally repugnant to produce content filtering software? Is it morally repugnant to produce guns? Where does the responsibility lie? With those who produce the device or those who use it?

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