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Canadian Company Netsweeper to Censor Bahrain’s Internet for $1.2M

Netsweeper is at it again.
Bahraini protestor in 2011. Image: Al Jazeera English

A Canadian company has offered to provide the Bahraini government with internet censorship technology, according to a tender published on Thursday—the latest in a string of questionable partnerships the company has forged in recent years.

The tender, posted by the Bahraini government, states that Netsweeper, a Guelph, Ontario-based company, will be paid $1,175,000 for supplying the government with a "national website filtering solution."


Netsweeper has provided foreign governments engaged in conflicts with controversial censorship technology before. For example, the company was harshly criticized last year for providing the Houthi rebels that exiled the Yemeni government with censorship technology.

Researchers from Citizen Lab analyzed Yemen's internet for months and concluded that the Houthis had made a "concerted effort to shape the information environment in the country," using Netsweeper's tech. In 2013, Citizen Lab also accused Netsweeper of providing the Pakistani government with similar technology.

Netsweeper did not immediately respond to Motherboard's request for comment.

The Bahraini government has a history of cracking down on anti-government criticism online. Last year, several Twitter users were arrested in the country for tweets critical of members of parliament. One former MP, Khalid Abdulaal, was sentenced to a year in prison for posting tweets condemning the use of torture.

Bahrain has been in a state of political turmoil since protests by Shiites demanding government reform in 2011. On Friday, Bahraini police clashed with Shiite protesters, who were allegedly throwing molotov cocktails and calling for the death of the royal family, Reuters reported.

At the time of the Yemen report's release last fall, Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert told Motherboard, "Companies that provide censorship technologies in the course of an armed conflict have a special responsibility to do due diligence. They are, in effect, participants in the conflict."

Documents obtained by Motherboard in 2014 under an access to information request revealed that the Canadian government was at one point considering regulating the sale of web filtering software, amongst other cyber tools, but lacked a clear plan.