Why Is This US Tech Company Involved in Oppressing the People of Belarus?

Published September 14th, 2020 - 08:59 GMT
Why Is This US Tech Company Involved in Oppressing the People of Belarus?
A US internet firm has offered the Belarusian government with advanced technologies that enable them to cut the internet in the country. (TUT.BY / AFP)

For the second consecutive month, thousands of people who oppose the country's decades-long rule of Alexander Lukashenko continue to march through the streets of Minsk calling for an end to his 26-year long rule that just got extended after he was announced the winner of the August 2020 presidential elections.

Supporters of the opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who claims that she has won the elections by 60%-70% of votes have since taken to the streets of the capital city, peacefully denouncing Lukashenko's authoritarian rule since 1994.

However, the protests that have been met with great force by the police, are also facing strong censorship especially after local authorities have been able to block the internet, which has been greatly helping the opposition activists connect, mobilize and keep the world updated with police violations, which has greatly helped curb arrests.

According to Bloomberg, a US internet firm has provided the Belarusian government with advanced technologies that enable them to cut off the internet connectivity in the country.

Sandvine Inc. has been especially highlighted in the Bloomberg investigation, which revealed that advanced tools that monitor and control internet access have been heavily used by the local government to shut the internet and limit people's access to many websites online. The report notes that such practices have been used a month before the elections and continue to aid the government's efforts to stop protests.

The report also adds that the internet blocking technology was "obtained by Belarus’s National Traffic Exchange Center, which manages the country’s internet networks, as part of a $2.5 million contract with the Russian technology supplier Jet Infosystems. The latter supplied the Sandvine equipment, according to government documents and the people."

Internet blockage in Belarus during the 4th of August's elections hindered people's ability to access social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which was then justified by officials by "a massive cyber-attack" before internet experts and analysis linked it to the government's systematic attempts to block the internet and influence elections results.

Responding to Bloomberg's investigation, the California-based Sandvine had concluded that the internet, and access to specific material on websites, wasn't "a part of human rights" which means that the company "didn't violate U.S. sanctions."

 

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