In light of Citizen Lab’s recent report which showed that Canadian technology is being used to block LGBTQ2 content in several countries around the world, Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert has penned a letter to MP Randy Boissonnault, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues.
Planet Netsweeper revealed that Netsweeper– a company based in Waterloo, Ontario– is being used to censor expression and block access to information related to LGBTQ2 issues, with serious human rights implications. In some countries, this includes blocking of Google searches for LGBTQ2-related keywords and several instances of miscategorization of non-pornographic LGBTQ2 content as “pornography.” Additionally, Netsweeper offers a predefined filtering category to its users designated as “Alternative Lifestyles,” which appears to block non-pornographic LGBTQ2 content, including the websites of civil rights and advocacy organizations, HIV/AIDS prevention organizations, and LGBTQ2 media and cultural groups.
The report also details that Netsweeper has received financial support from Canadian government entities.
In his letter to MP Boissonnault, Deibert identifies that the Government of Canada is “financially and politically complicit in the censorship of LGBTQ2 voices, essential health information, political speech, and journalistic expression abroad.” He also proposes a series of concrete steps for how Canada’s foreign policy can better align with our responsibility to affirm, protect, and respect human rights.
“The Government has also made an international pledge to “condemn violence and discrimination that target individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.” I hope you will act to maintain this commitment when it comes to Netsweeper and similar dual-use technologies that are used to silence LGBTQ2 individuals, put them at risk of harm, and denigrate their identities — all of which contradict Canada’s human rights commitments.”
Read the full letter here.