Court Lets Cisco Systems Off the Hook for Helping China Detain, Torture Religious Minorities

by Cindy Cohn and Rainey Reitman,  Electronic Frontier Foundation

Chinese citizens who suffered forced detention, torture, and a panoply of brutal human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese government have been engaged in a high profile court case against Silicon Valley mainstay Cisco Systems for many years. Those Chinese citizens suffered yet another indignity in a California court a couple of weeks ago: a district judge dismissed the case against Cisco without even giving them the chance to gather evidence on the key point where the court found them wanting. The court noted that even though Cisco may have designed and developed the Golden Shield system for the purpose of tracking, identifying and facilitating the capture of Chinese religious minorities, Cisco would not be held liable because it didn’t do enough in the U.S. to facilitate human rights abuses. EFF attempted to file an amicus brief in the case after oral argument, but it was rejected.

The case seems high techit’s about Cisco’s Golden Shield, a set of sophisticated technologies that include specific purpose-built parts for persecution of the Falun Gong.  But it’s actually fairly simple:  at what point does a company that intentionally builds tools that are specially designed for governmental human rights abuses become liable for the use of those tools for their intended (and known) purposes?  Read the entire story.

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