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China Relents on Censorship Software

Green Dam won’t be enforced on private computers.

  • August 13, 2009

The Chinese government today revoked a controversial mandate that would have forced all computer manufacturers to equip products sold in China with the Green Dam/Youth Escort filtering software. The software will still be available for individuals to use if they choose, and will be required on public computers, according to Li Yizhong, China’s Industry and Information Technology Minister.

A screenshot of Green Dam/Youth Escort.

Li told Beijing News:

“We will install it in computers located in schools and internet cafes. We entirely respect customer’s benefit and freedom. We will definitely not make installation compulsory for all computers on sale.”

The software–intended to block pornography or other objectionable material on the Web–drew sharp criticism worldwide in June, in part because the software seemed to block legitimate sites and posed a potential security risk. According to some reports, the software also blocked certain political sites. A big concern was that mandatory censorship software would give the Chinese government–which already routinely blocks certain sites like YouTube–more control over its citizens’ web-browsing.

Now, the software will be handed out along with a new computer for individual users to install it if they wish, according to Li. The New York Times reports that some Asian computer makers have already included the software on computers sold in China.

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