In a street scene, a police officer reaches towards a woman carrying a camera
Law enforcement officers detaining journalists who were on assignment are photographed by a Reuters photographer a moment before his detention, in Minsk, Belarus July 28, 2020. CPJ has asked California's attorney general to investigate US technology implicated in the censorship of Belarusian news websites amid recent protests. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)

CPJ joins call for California attorney general to investigate technology used in Belarus censorship

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined free expression and digital rights groups on September 23 in calling on Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, to investigate technology sales by Sandvine Inc. after the company acknowledged that its products were being used to block news and other websites amid anti-government protests in Belarus.

The call, co-signed by digital rights advocates at Access Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and experts at the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab, asks Becerra to respond to a letter sent last week requesting an investigation into the company’s ethics review process pertaining to global sales of deep packet inspection technology, which has censorship and surveillance capabilities.

Sandvine told CPJ in a statement on September 15 that it had terminated sales in Belarus, and stated that its license agreement prohibits the use of its technology for any action “that supports or enables the commission of individual human rights violations.” Sandvine was acquired by Francisco Partners, a San Francisco-based investment firm, in 2017. In a statement sent to CPJ after publication, the company said it had formally demanded that the National Traffic Exchange Center in Belarus return its technology.

Companies producing technologies that can be weaponized against journalists “must be held accountable for conducting thorough and meaningful human rights impact assessments,” Courtney C. Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists said in the September 23 press release.

The accompanying letter is available here.

Editor’s note: The third paragraph has been updated with a statement from Sandvine.