Microsoft gave repressive Tunisia aid to stop open source

Whistle-blowing site Wikileaks has is “currently under heavy attack” in the aftermath of the latest release of cables.

The infamous site recently released a new batch of documents, and Microsoft is one of the latest to find itself in hot water – as its role working with the repressive Tunisian government comes to light.

According to ZDNet UK, a cable was sent by the US embassy in September 2006 highlighting how Microsoft had been cosying up to the authoritarian regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

It appears that, in its desperation to stop Tunisian authorities using open source in place of its own Windows products, Microsoft set up a program on cyber criminality to cover training, as well as handing over the source code for Windows.

While Microsoft is not the only firm caught misbehaving with foreign governments, with others lending support to the Libyan regime, the support of the Tunisian authorities prior to the uprising which kicked off the Arab Spring is serious stuff.

Within the cable itself, it was highlighted that the training could have been used to oppress the Tunisian people.

In fact it was questioned whether it would give the Tunisian government a greater “capacity to monitor its own citizens”.

Ultimately though, it was said that “for Microsoft the benefits outweigh the costs”.

The information was passed to the US embassy by Microsoft’s Tunisian boss Salwa Smaoui, with further details of an innovation centre, system upgrading and IT training for handicapped Tunisians.

For Microsoft’s side of the bargain it got 12,000 licences for its software instead of open source.

It was also guaranteed that all new computer systems would be compatible with Microsoft software, a departure from a strict open source software policy that had been in place until then.