James Forsyth James Forsyth

Western firms mustn’t help the Iranian regime repress the Iranian population

Companies that do business with non-democratic regimes have a moral responsibility not to sell these regimes tools that can be used to aid repression. A story in the Wall Street Journal raises some disturbing questions about the behaviour of Nokia and Siemens and whether they have sold the Iranian government the technology that is being used to block communications inside the country and monitor those who are agitating against the regime:

“Deep packet inspection involves inserting equipment into a flow of online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Every digitized packet of online data is deconstructed, examined for keywords and reconstructed within milliseconds. In Iran’s case, this is done for the entire country at a single choke point, according to networking engineers familiar with the country’s system. It couldn’t be determined whether the equipment from Nokia Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection. Asked about selling such equipment to a government like Iran’s, Mr. Roome of Nokia Siemens Networks said the company “does have a choice about whether to do business in any country. We believe providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate is preferable to leaving them without the choice to be heard.” … The monitoring center that Nokia Siemens Networks sold to Iran was described in a company brochure as allowing “the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication on all networks.” The joint venture exited the business that included the monitoring equipment, what it called “intelligence solutions,” at the end of March, by selling it to Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, a Munich-based investment firm”

One way those of us who are fortunate enough to live in free societies can show solidarity with those who do not, is to place immense pressure on our governments and companies not to aid repressive regimes.

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