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China Making Green Dam Internet Filter Optional

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

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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