In October 2019, the U.S. government blacklisted 28 Chinese companies due to alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, northwest China.
Specifically, the companies added to the Industry and Security Bureau’s “Entity List” were accused of “human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high technology surveillance against the Uighurs, Kazakhs, an other members of the Muslim minority groups” in the region.
Their addition to the list dramatically restricts American companies’ ability to trade with the Chinese companies.
Our investigation throws a spotlight on the corporate relationships between these businesses and US companies. We looked at who is providing the core web services required to operate the websites of not only the newly-blacklisted Chinese surveillance companies but also a number of other highly controversial surveillance companies around the world.
Not only are US companies working with controversial Chinese companies, they are also helping the notorious NSO Group, as well as 16 other companies that have faced allegations of human rights abuses, stay online.
Through providing essential web services to these controversial companies, US firms are playing a part in the proliferation of highly invasive surveillance products that have the potential to undermine human rights around the world.
Specifically, we reveal which US companies provide the following services for each surveillance company:
- Web hosting
- Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Email hosting
- SSL certificate
- Name server
- Content Management System (CMS)
Proponents of increased surveillance have claimed that it has the potential to improve public safety. However, several studies have shown that these sophisticated surveillance technologies have also been used to enable human rights abuses in China.
In Xinjiang, a complex web of surveillance measures has supported the forced imprisonment of an estimated 1 million predominantly Muslim ethnic groups, including the Uighurs.
Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to decouple the American and Chinese technology sectors, the continued presence of American companies in more discreet settings shows that cooperation between the two remains.