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Google, Amazon and Microsoft are providing tech services to prominent surveillance companies that have been blacklisted by the U.S. Department of Commerce for human rights violations, or are otherwise linked to human rights violations, according to a new report.
Amazon supports nine of the 18 blacklisted or controversial surveillance companies, Google supports five and Microsoft supports four. The services these tech giants provide to the companies in question include website hosting, content delivery networks and email, according to the report by virtual private network research website, Top10VPN.
A Google spokesperson told FOX Business it could not comment on its business with "any specific customer" for privacy and legal reasons, and Microsoft declined to comment. The Commerce Department said it does not share details regarding licensing issues. Amazon did not respond to an inquiry from FOX Business.
"Our investigation throws a spotlight on the corporate relationships between these businesses and U.S. companies," Top10VPN Digital Rights Lead Samuel Woodhams and Head of Research Simon Migliano wrote in their findings. "Not only are U.S. 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."
The Commerce Department's Entity List imposes additional export license requirements on foreign companies that are involved in activities that run contrary to U.S. interests and threaten national security. And many of the companies are Chinese, so the list severely restricts "American companies’ ability to trade with the Chinese companies," the report notes.
Nine of the surveillance companies were blacklisted in October. The Chinese companies were specifically blacklisted for “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," according to the Department's Bureau of Industry and Security.
The Chinese Communist Party uses this surveillance technology to facilitate the imprisonment of an estimated 1 million people belonging to Muslim minority groups that prominently reside in the northwestern corner of China, according to Amnesty International.
The Trump administration has placed sanctions on China in part for the country's human rights violations against Uighurs after a limited number of reports, such as a bombshell October investigation from The New York Times, have brought light to the issue in recent years.
"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," Woodhams and Migliano said. "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."
Trump has been at odds with China and big tech in recent weeks. Tensions between the United States and China have worsened since the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States.
The president has also threatened to crack down on big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter with an executive order that would update Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He accused the companies on Wednesday of silencing conservative voices online after Twitter added a fact-check label to one of his tweets.
CORRECTION: The 18 blacklisted or controversial companies supported by Google, Amazon and Microsoft are not all from one country. An earlier version of this story, and its associated headlines, incorrectly identified the companies' nationality. Furthermore, nine of the 18 companies are on the U.S. blacklist. Other companies are considered controversial, according to Top10VPN. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the companies' status. This article has also been updated to include changes to Top10's report, including additional findings that Google only provided support to five controversial companies, rather than seven, and Facebook and Twitter are not actively supporting Hikivision.