Burst in Green Dam Plan: China Stalls on Internet Filter

BEIJING — China has delayed mandatory installation of filtering software on new computers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Tuesday.

According to the state-run Xinhua news service, the July 1 mandate for all new computers to contain the Green Dam-Youth Escort filtering software has been lifted, indefinitely.

It's not known if the government is bowing to pressure, both internal and global.

The software has come under fire worldwide, from human rights and Internet user groups to tech companies, which said Green Dam hampers operating systems, affects other software and leaves PCs open to security risks, including virus attacks.

A spokesperson for the MIIT said the agency would continue to provide a free download of the software and equip school and Internet-bar computers after July 1.

“Some businesses pointed out the heavy amount of work, time pressures and lack of preparation,” an anonymous Ministry official said on the MIIT website.

“The Ministry ... will further solicit opinions from all sides, improve the plan, upgrade methods and carry out related tasks.”

China still maintains that the software is designed to block violence and pornography to protect minors and also help parents control their children’s time spent online.

China has some 300 million Internet users, and the ideas found on the Web — not porn and extreme violence — are said to real be an issue here, though the government denies such charges.

“They never expected the backlash would be so vehement,” Beijing Internet entrepreneur Wang Junxiu told Reuters.

“This will just peter out now and the government will hope it will be soon forgotten, I'd say.”

Wang suggested the entire plan was haphazard and possibly not driven by the country’s highest authorities.

“The leaders apparently decided the controversy and problems were too much and decided to make a break,” Wang said. “If this had been a well-prepared plan with senior support, the result would have been very different. But it wasn’t.”

In recent weeks, the U.S. issued several official protests over the Green Dam software and supported the delay announcement.

"I would say we would welcome this," U.S. embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said in Beijing.

The BBC reports that Monday, the European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing lobbied the government to evaluate the mandate, which it said, “poses significant questions in relation to security, privacy, system reliability, the free flow of information and user choice.”

Also, Chinese Internet activists, bloggers and lawyers have continued to threaten protests and legal actions.

From the news of the Green Dam in early June to Tuesday’s announces delay, the plan has been yet another tech-control embarrassment for China.

The Green Dam software also was accused of containing code pirated by a California firm, Solid Oak, which specializes in parental control filter programs. 

China’s own computer marketplace, a “digital bazaar,” also resisted the plan, including retailers and distributors of computers and related goods, reports the Washington Post.

As a salesman in the Beijing Silicon Valley Computer City told the Post regarding Green Dam, customers would still be able to “tear it or dump the disc.”