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China Softens Stance on Green Dam Filter

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Domestic concerns were joined by protests from abroad. The US government joined 22 international business chambers of commerce that sent letters urging China's government to reconsider its mandate.

MIIT in June had announced a delay of the installation of Green Dam software originally scheduled for July. The government explained that computer producers were demanding more time for such a massive installation.

Still, MIIT defended its policy. MIIT officials told the Xinhua News Agency that the filtering software was "an act for the public good" and added that the software conforms to "World Trade Organization (WTO) rules".

Related readings: Green Dam launch 'not handled well' Minister says Green Dam unbound on PC Green Dam filtering into computers Green Dam curbs porn business Plug not pulled on Green Dam The statement about the WTO apparently was in response to suggestions that the Green Dam order might be a violation of WTO rules.

Even though use by consumers now is voluntary, MIIT still will install Green Dam filters in schools and Internet cafes.

Relieved PC makers

The government's softer stance is a relief to computer makers.

During the past few months, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and other computer makers had been wary about how to achieve a balance between not upsetting the government and not upsetting consumers.

A source at a foreign computer company who asked that his name not be used said the controversy left computer makers feeling trapped between answering the government and consumers in the world's second-largest PC market.

"In our company, we had a rule that would not allow installing software in our products without a complete test for security and compatibility," the source said.

"We might face complaints and compensation demands from the consumers if the pre-installed software has problems or does damage to the hardware," the source said.

In June, a group of US professors at the University of Michigan reported the Green Dam software was vulnerable to outside computer hackers.

US-based software developer Solid Oak also threatened to sue Green Dam's Chinese developers for copyright infringement over Sold Oak's porn filter called CyberSitter.

Internet controls

The Chinese government this year has tightened controls over the Internet due to safety concerns over the upcoming celebration of the 60th anniversary of the nation.

The government also has launched several anti-pornography campaigns targeting the Internet in recent months.

The government temporarily shut down access to Google in June after reports that the popular Internet search engine was providing links to pornographic content.

The government also blocked access to the Internet social networking tool Twitter following riots in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in July that killed at least 140 people. Internet access also was blocked in the immediate area of the riots.

Pan Wei, a professor at Peking University's School of International Studies, said China should be more open to other voices on monitoring the Internet.

"China should be confident enough to be transparent and take criticism. It's about time China loosened its control over the Internet," Pan said.

(China Daily August 24, 2009)


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