China is defending its directive forcing manufacturers to include blocking software in all personal computers sold there by July 1. The order from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is to filter out unhealthy content, including pornography and violence, according to ministry spokesperson Qin Gang.
China’s MIIT issued the notice on May 19 that PCs to be sold in China must include the software dubbed Green Dam-Youth Escort. The software prevents computers from accessing Web sites with pornography, Zhan Chenmin, manager of Jinhui Computer Systems Engineering Co., the company behind the software, told Shanghai Daily.
Earlier this year, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center cited several Web sites as having large amounts of lewd content. Since the center’s campaign began in January, China has shut down up to 1,507 Web sites. Companies such as MSN China, and Sina and search engines, including Google and Baidu, have been warned to remove pornography, according to the portal of the People’s Republic of China.
Critics, however, say the campaign is an attempt to stop Chinese Internet users from viewing political content.
That criticism is based on past issues, involving blocking of Web sites by the Chinese government. In March, China blocked YouTube after a video showed security guards beating Tibetans. Other sites, including Flickr, Twitter and Bing, have also been blocked at various times.
One of our readers in China wrote to us, indicating that while “a slew of sites are blocked,” not all the sites mentioned above are actually being blocked — despite the fact that the U.S. media is widely reporting the blockage.
This reader can still reach Twitter.com, Hotmail.com, Flickr.com, and Live.com without any trouble. YouTube, the reader said, is the only site that is unreachable in daily surfing of the Net.
Critics, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, believe China is putting a squeeze on its 179 million Internet users by controlling what they view.
“Censorship techniques are as easily adapted to political speech as they are to offensive images,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director at EPIC. “That is the reason that individuals, not governments, should determine which information is appropriate to receive.”
For PC manufacturers who don’t preinstall software, China’s ministry has said it will allow them to include the Green Dam-Youth Escort CD in the packaging, according to the authorized government Web portal site, China.org. That site is published under the direction of the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group in Beijing.
The looming deadline of July 1 is quickly approaching and vendors, including Lenovo, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, will have to ramp up efforts to meet the deadline.