China Delays Online Filtering Plan

By Matthew Harwood

The Communist Party's controversial plan to force computer manufacturers to include Internet filtering software in the machines sold inside China, slated to start tomorrow, has been called off indefinitely, delighting critics.

According to Reuters:

The climbdown was reported late on Tuesday by the official Xinhua news agency, which said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology would "delay the mandatory installation of the controversial 'Green Dam-Youth Escort' filtering software on new computers".

The "Green Dam" plan, which officials said was to stamp out Internet pornography banned in China, was to start on Wednesday, but had been assailed by critics of censorship, industry groups and Washington officials as politically intrusive, technically ineffective and commercially unfair.

Some Chinese Internet users had called for a boycott of all online activities tomorrow to protest what they consider the government's heavy-handed effort to curtail freedom of information, reports Voice of America. Activists believe the Green Dam plan would be used to spy on political opponents and restrict readers from political ideas found objectionable or dangerous to the Communist Party, which runs the one-party state. On a more practical note, activists believe the filter could expose computers to security threats.

While the plan was opposed by foreign companies, the United States, and the European Union, Reuters reports it may be opposition among the country's "netizens" that proved Green Dam's demise.

But the most potent opposition may have been the many Chinese Internet activists, bloggers and lawyers who threatened protests, law suits and other actions against the plan.

Susan Shirk, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of California, San Diego, said that earlier open criticism of "Green Dam" in the Chinese media suggested the plan did not have the backing of senior government leaders.

"They do watch public opinion very carefully," Shirk said of China's Communist Party leaders. "There's a very dynamic interaction between the Party authorities and the Internet public."

Ai Weiwei, a Beijing artist and blogger adamantly opposed to Green Dam, told Reuters he had originally planned a protest party for Wednesday. The party will go ahead, only it'll be a victory party.

♦ Photo by MrGluSniffer/Flickr



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