Posted by: kenwbudd | August 13, 2009

Chinese Government Backdown on Censorship Software

In a previous blog we reported on the Chinese Government IT ministry’s order to compulsory install censorship software on every computer in China.

Thankfully, this order has now been withdraw and the Chinese Government has climbed down and put the legislation on hold.

Advocates of free-speech and human rights said that the program was a clear attempt by the Chinese government to extend its control and censorship of political opinions, from public places into people’s living rooms.

The contentious order was first issued last May 19, and had stirred an outcry from Chinese Internet users and foreign computer manufacturers alike, arguing that the software ran counter to China’s proclaimed goal of creating an information-based society.

Although the government insists that the program is meant to shield children from online pornography and paedophiles, its filter is automatically updated by the government and targeted many topics with political overtones.

From a comercial viewpoint, the United States also warned China that the installation requirement would be seen as a violation of world trade regulations.

Green Dam Software
The information ministry previously had suspended the Green Dam pre-installation mandate on June 30, one day before it was to take effect, saying that computer makers needed more time to accommodate it as a pre-installed package in their manufacturing process.

Pre-installed on new computers
The statement by Mr. Li appeared to make that initial suspension, more permanent. Mr. Li said the government would neither require the program to come pre-installed on new computers or force computer makers to include the program on a CD with other optional software.

Lenovo, Acer and Sony
A few Asian computer manufacturers, led by China-based Lenovo, Taiwan’s Acer, and Japan’s Sony, nevertheless, include the software on computers sold in China for fear of being barred from a lucrative market.

Filtering remains Mandatory for Public Internet Users
Although Mr. Li’s concession is a step backward for the Green Dam program, the software remains mandatory in schools, Internet cafes and other sites used by scores of millions of people.

The government already takes extraordinary steps to monitor computer use in Internet cafes, which remain common in a nation where owning a computer remains a comparative luxury.

Only 25% of Chinese people have access to a computer and the Internet. This number is equal to the entire population of the US and is growing.

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