Cisco Supports Freedom of Expression, an Open Internet and Human Rights

June 6, 2011 - 12 Comments

First things first – Cisco believes in the Internet and its ability to educate, unite, empower, challenge, disrupt, collaborate, create and inspire, and the equipment we provide helps the Internet work.

Cisco strongly supports free expression and open communication on the Internet. We are proud to have played a leading role in helping to make Internet technology ubiquitous, allowing billions of people in nearly every nation around the world to access information previously unavailable or inaccessible.

Our goal in providing networking technology is to expand the reach of communications systems, and our products are built on open, global standards.  We do not support attempts by governments to balkanize the Internet or create a “closed” Internet because such attempts undermine the cause of freedom.  In fact, adherence to open standards is critical in the efforts to overcome censorship.

Our company has been accused in a pair of lawsuits of contributing to the mistreatment of dissidents in China, based on the assertion that we customize our equipment to participate in tracking of dissidents.  The lawsuits are inaccurate and entirely without foundation – and in fact they simply recycle the identical allegations that were raised by the Falun Gong religious group three years ago, which were extensively reported at the time and discussed at a Congressional hearing, including reference to the same Chinese government statements about their goals for technology.   We have never customized our equipment to help the Chinese government—or any government—censor content, track Internet use by individuals or intercept Internet communications.

Let’s start with the practices Cisco follows.  As stated above, we fundamentally believe in and adhere to global standards.  This is vitally important in ensuring the world stays connected because if products are not interoperable, the Internet loses some of its incredible power.

Our sales activities are in strict compliance with U.S. export rules and regulations, which are informed and guided by human rights principles.  Specifically, we comply with the Foreign Relations Act of 1991, also known as the Tiananmen sanctions which, among other things, block the sales of specific equipment to Chinese police agencies.

Additionally, Cisco supports the United Nations Global Compact, a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rightslabor, environment and anti-corruption.

Cisco does not supply equipment to China that is customized in any way to facilitate blocking of access or surveillance of users.  Equipment supplied to China is the same equipment we provide worldwide, which includes industry-standard network management  capabilities which are the same as those used by  public libraries in the U.S. that allow them to block inappropriate content for children.  It is the same equipment that service providers and businesses around the world must use to stop viruses or block attempts to disable infrastructure.  Mediation equipment designed to intercept voice communications is not sold by Cisco.

Second, we do not operate public networks, and we do not monitor public network activities.  Network operators are the entities that control information flow.  Individuals, companies and countries make their own decisions with respect to how they operate networks.

Just like other technology or virtually any product, Internet technology is not perfect – and the Internet itself can be misused – but there has been no greater force in spreading the power of ideas than the single worldwide Internet. The key to its growth and the flow of information it enables has been the standardization of one global network. This has been and remains the core of Cisco’s business and our values.

For more information on Cisco’s legal compliance in exporting our equipment, please see here.  For more information on Cisco’s corporate social responsibility commitments, see here.

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  1. I don’t think anyone is questioning, yes you don’t believe in abuses, yes we just supply the equipment, yes you follow ABC guidelines etc. etc.

    I think for many people the concerns relate more to, “hey your stuff is being used to do so and so” and they want you to take more thought and insight about how your stuff might be being used, rather than being so hands off.

    You are a company who has to make money, everyone gets this. You have policies that support people. Great. Sometimes though, people and companies have to take a stand for something. The world is not black and white.

  2. Cisco is an exemplary organization

  3. this sounds a bit too vague. Of course we like the tone and the intention. But without net neutrality there is a big hole in the heart right?

  4. Thanks for clarification statement. We as technical people understand the limitations and scope of network machines and also know the vulnerability. Now a days any node can be manipulated by hacking so we cannot blame Cisco for this.

  5. Corporate responsibility was one of the reasons I came to Cisco. It was a company that seemed to stand for a better way of living through technology and honorable human practices. Now I am here and all I see is a company moving a good portion of its operations to a country with the worst human rights and environmental record in the world. Was all of that rhetoric just window dressing to make good marketing material? If that is the case then this lawsuit is a good method to expose the hypocrisy of profit and greed outweighing what is right and just. You can spin that philosophy any way you want (we are fighting the good battle from within, if we don’t someone else will, etc.) but in the end we are no better off than those who exploit less developed countries for their natural resources and leave a wake of despair behind. All of this hooha about diversity and the like that is drilled into every piece of material released internally is much more about talking the right language. We just don’t seem to follow up with what really reveals character – action. I put my name on this post because I firmly believe in standing and ACTING behind what I believe in – will Cisco ever follow suit?

  6. Thanks, Jeremy, for your comment. We support efforts to ensure a global, free Internet built to global standards. The ability of governments to invoke a “kill switch” effectively often depends on how many service providers they allow to have access to international gateways.

  7. That’s all good information to hear. I’ve always believed in Cisco as a good and fair company so I’m happy to hear you reassure us in light of these accusations.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. So one would think Cisco would oppose a congressional bill to allow for a internet “kill switch” based upon your statement that “this is vitally important in ensuring the world stays connected because if products are not interoperable, the Internet loses some of its incredible power,” correct?

    I like how you have outlined your actions to really show you are committed to this cause. I would like to see more of a public commitment from Cisco to oppose the “kill switch.”

    Thank you.

  9. So you support an “open Internet” but oppose net neutrality? Let’s face it … you’re a typical corporation who cares about revenue and profit at any expense, including political activists in China.

  10. Hi: there is a broken link in the below “see here”

    For more information on Cisco’s corporate social responsibility commitments, see here

    that should point to:

  11. Mark,

    Thank you for clarifying Cisco’s perspective on this issue and articulating our standards of business. Please keep up the great work, and good luck working through this.