Doe v. Cisco Systems, Inc.
Doe v. Cisco Systems, Inc. is a case currently being litigated in the Northern District of California against Cisco Systems, Inc., a major American network technology corporation. The plaintiffs are a group of Falun Gong practitioners who have been subjected to serious human rights abuses in China through the use of China’s “Golden Shield” project. The Golden Shield is an unprecedented network security system used for the widespread censorship, surveillance, identification, tracking, apprehension, and torture of Chinese dissidents. Cisco has been the major provider of network security “solutions” in China since the late 1990’s and has played a central role in the design and implementation of the Golden Shield, despite widespread knowledge that its primary purpose is to facilitate the violent persecution of dissident groups.
China’s authoritarian control over the Internet has been essential to the brutal persecution of its citizens, and without the assistance of leading western technology corporations like Cisco, China’s persecutory campaigns would not be nearly as effective as they are today. Cisco designed and implemented entire network security systems with features customized specifically to target Falun Gong practitioners, and integrated these systems into the Chinese security infrastructure to allow police and security officials to monitor, profile, apprehend, detain, and “transform” practitioners through the use of torture. These systems were unprecedented in terms of their scope and scale and required extensive customization by Cisco.
The plaintiffs in this case were apprehended and detained merely for engaging in Internet activity such as visiting Falun Gong websites, discussing the practice of Falun Gong online, and sharing information about the widespread human rights abuses suffered by Falun Gong practitioners in China. Cisco’s surveillance technology was used to monitor and analyze this disfavored Internet activity, to alert Chinese security officials to its existence, and to gather and store sensitive information about the Internet users involved. This information enabled the apprehension, detention, and torture of the plaintiffs and many thousands of others.
While detained, the plaintiffs were beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to eat laundry detergent, electrocuted with electric batons, drugged, and subjected to numerous other brutal human rights abuses. One of the plaintiffs was beaten to death while in custody, while another has disappeared and is presumed dead. Complaints that Cisco is complicit in these abuses have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears, and Cisco continues to work with Chinese security officials to this day. Litigation under the Alien Tort Statute is one of the few remaining tools to ensure Cisco is held accountable for its conduct.
For more information, contact the Human Rights Law Foundation at (202) 697-3858.
© Human Rights Law Foundation 2010
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