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Porn Filters 'Are Not Spyware'

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Officials have denied a media report that claims spyware will be installed on all computers to control Chinese Internet users.

Pornography filtering software will be installed on all computers sold in China from July 1, but authorities say that it is not advanced enough to act as spyware.

"The software is designed to filter pornography on the Internet and that's the only purpose of it," said Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office.

"The nationwide move is purely to protect the youngsters from Internet pornography and violence. The software has proved to be effective in trials in schools," he said.

Qin Gang, spokesman with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Internet had always been open in China.

He also said that the government's administration of the Internet was carried out in accordance with the law and designed to stop the spread of harmful information.

"The Internet filter software is targeted at protecting youths from the spread of pornography and other unhealthy content," he said at a press conference Tuesday.

"I think anyone who has a child, or would like one, could understand parents' concern about unhealthy content on the Internet."

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has invested 41.7 million yuan (US$6.1 million) on the software, which will be pre-installed on new computers.

Zhang Chenmin, general manager of the Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co, which won the bid to develop the "Green Dam-Youth Escort" filtering software last year, said: "Our software is simply not capable of spying on Internet users, it is only a filter."

Zhang said he complained at the Beijing office of the Wall Street Journal, which published the article that accused the government of using the filter to control Internet usage.

"The paper falsely claimed that our software can be used as spyware without having a clear understanding of the product," he said.

Simon Ye, an analyst from research firm Gartner, said users could choose to uninstall the software or even reformat the hard drive if they didn't like the software.

The filtering software is the latest step taken by the government to clamp down on young people accessing porn and violent contents.

In 2007, Chinese online game operators were ordered to install anti-addiction software in games. However, young people quickly found a way around this law by registering multiple accounts so the amount of time they spent online could not be monitored.

Meanwhile, government regulations in 2003 and 2006 required that Internet users and bloggers reveal their real names when logging on are yet to be enforced.

(China Daily June 10 2009)