One of the companies recently added to the U.S. Commerce Department’s “entity list” is CloudMinds, the SoftBank-backed start-up behind the smiling, humanoid robot Pepper. Photo: Gabriel Bouys (Getty Images)
The U.S. Commerce Department has put another 33 Chinese businesses—many of which develop artificial intelligence and face recognition tech—on its economic blacklist as a punitive measure for purportedly conspiring with Beijing and the government’s brutal crackdown on Muslim minorities.
The department’s so-called “entity list” bans blacklisted companies from using U.S.-made tech in their devices. Established via executive order last May, it includes Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, along with 68 affiliates accused of acting as proxies for Chinese espionage agencies.
Per a Reuters report Friday, seven companies and two institutions were cited as being “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs,” in a statement from the Commerce Department. The agency said the other two dozen organizations were listed for securing supplies for the Chinese military.
One of the companies named is CloudMinds, a start-up specializing in cloud-based systems for robots and the folks behind the smiling, humanoid robot Pepper. Last year, Reuters reported that the SoftBank-backed company was barred from transferring technology and technical information between its U.S. and Beijing offices until it secured the appropriate licenses.
Also cited was NetPosa, one of China’s biggest names in AI. Its subsidiary SenseNet was discovered to be conducting extensive and invasive surveillance measures last year, presumably at the behest of the Chinese government, in Xinjiang, a remote region where much of the population is Muslim.
Friday’s decision follows renewed efforts by China to tighten its hold on Hong Kong with a bevy of new national security and anti-sedition laws. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump expanded punitive trade sanctions against Huawei, straining U.S.-China relations amid an ongoing feud over the Chinese tech giant.