The government's edict prompted widespread derision from Chinese bloggers, objections from Chinese academics and lawyers, and criticism from security experts.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

June 16, 2009

2 Min Read

The Chinese government appears to have reconsidered its mandate that all computers sold in China after July 1 include the Green Dam Youth Escort Web filtering software.

According to separate reports from the Associated Press and the English-language China Daily, an unnamed official in China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that installation of the software would not be required after all.

Reports that the Green Dam software is compulsory on all computers are "a misunderstanding," according to China Daily.

The unnamed official said that the software's setup files must be present on all computers or on an installation CD, but the actual installation of the software is up to users.

Chinese authorities claim the software is necessary to protect people from harmful information, specifically pornography. But the software has been found to block politically sensitive terms.

Chances are few users will chose to install the software, if given the choice. The Chinese government's edict, disclosed a week ago, has prompted widespread derision from Chinese bloggers, objections from Chinese academics and lawyers, and criticism from security experts.

U.S. tech industry groups have voiced concern and Solid Oak Software, a U.S.-based maker of Web filtering software, said that the Green Dam software contains illegally copied code.

The Chinese Communist Party's Central Propaganda department reportedly has told news organizations to moderate their complaints about Green Dam, an apparent attempt to counter what Rebecca MacKinnon, assistant professor at the Journalism & Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, and others are calling "a public relations fiasco."

The online backlash against Green Dam in China mirrors the electoral discontent traveling through Twitter and other online services in Iran. Innovation in social media and collaborative communication is moving faster than censorship technology, forcing governments in countries like China and Iran to confront controversies they'd rather silence.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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