Thank You Websense, From Pakistan

Quoted here is an earlier version of the websense statement. We supported and uphold the decision of websense to concentrate on their position and mention ‘several organizations’ instead of specific names. Essentially all organizations on national and international level are fighting for the same end goal. The cause remains our focus.

2nd March’2012

Last week we wrote letter to the CEO, of Websense Gene Hodges and asked them to publicly commit not to sell or even bid for the Government’s Proposal for URL Filtering and blocking software. Civil society signed the petition,issued a press release and made requests. Today,Websense committed that they will not respond to the Government’s request and asking other companies to follow their lead, calling for a stance against censorship. 

According to several organizations, on February 22, 2012, the National ICT R&D Fund, representing the government of Pakistan, placed an advertisement in the press calling on companies to submit proposals “for the development, deployment and operation of a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System.” Websense has been approached by Bolobhi and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre inviting us to respond to a petition calling on tech firms to not bid for the contract.

Broad censorship of the internet by governments, and restricting citizen access runs counter to Websense Policy on Government-Imposed Censorship and the principles of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), which we are an active member of.

Websense will not submit a response to this request for proposal (RFP), and we call on other technology providers to also do the right thing for the citizens of Pakistan and refuse to submit a proposal for this contract. Broad government censorship of citizen access to the internet is morally wrong. We further believe that any company whose products are currently being used for government-imposed censorship should remove their technology so that it is not used in this way by oppressive governments.

Websense will work with the GNI and other interested parties to continue to pressure our peers to not only refuse this RFP, but to adopt general policies so that they will also refuse to support government-imposed censorship of the internet in the future.

We thank Websense for showing important leadership on this matter and respecting rights and privacy of Pakistan internet users. We applaud the efforts and commitment of  Business Human Rights Centre for committing to help us and get our petition across to international surveillance companies. This is indeed a huge step in civil society’s campaign for internet freedom. We hope that other companies will follow the lead and make their pledge.
Thank you,
Sana Saleem
Bolo Bhi
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