EFF: don't let Cisco off the hook for participating in Chinese repression




What about taking to task companies (like Cisco) complicit in the NSA's illegal spying? I mean, clean your own house before getting started on your neighbor's.


Here, I looked it up for you. The EFF has engaged in litigation related to NSA spying, and a variety of other issues(though it is the ACLU that did some of the higher-profile AT&T-whistleblower related ones).

And, more generally, you take your targets as you can find them. Have good evidence that Cisco is guilty of repression that even a US court wouldn't approve of? Take 'em down. In an ideal world, you'd be able to make the cost of complicity ruinous in any jurisdiction; but there is nothing wrong with hitting a soft target when one appears.


Besides: China bad, America good.


So, as someone who works at EFF on international issues, I hope I can help a little with this. Firstly, this is an amicus in another litigant's case -- specifically, a group of Chinese activists who are using the US courts to sue Cisco for their involvement in human rights abuses in China. The activists are using the United States' Alien Tort Act, which allows the US courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens against US persons (including companies) for violations outside the US. The Alien Tort Act dates back to 1789.

EFF isn't conducting the litigation, we're merely advising the court on our opinion. We do this a fair bit, both to make help the court include the wider ramifications of a decision on technology, both good or bad. We're supporting the activists' case, but also carefully defining some reasons to do so that would mean that, for instance, other technologists whose dual-use tools get used for repressive acts don't get caught up in the same precedent. A law that punished a company like Cisco for designing systems specifically to target dissidents, for instance, shouldn't also end up throwing Richard Stallman in jail because that software was compiled using his C compiler.

As someone else mentioned, EFF is also the organization responsible for suing both the government and companies for complicity in the unconstitutional and illegal NSA projects. Supporting Chinese citizens suing Cisco for their involvement in the Golden Shield; US citizens suing the US government for its involvement in mass surveillance. These are two actions we can conduct in parallel, and I hope you will be able to support us as we do so.


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