- China - Internet - software - technology
AFP - China has delayed a plan requiring that all new computers come with a Chinese-made Internet filtering software programme, state media reported Tuesday, hours before it was to take effect.
China had planned to implement the controversial rule beginning Wednesday but it has been postponed, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
"The pre-installation was delayed as some computer producers said such a massive installation demanded extra time," Xinhua said, quoting an unnamed ministry spokesman.
The spokesman did not give a new timetable for the software to be installed.
"The ministry would also keep on soliciting opinions to perfect the pre-installation plan," he was quoted saying.
The move is likely to be hailed by foreign and domestic critics, who have accused the government of trying to increase already tight controls over the Internet.
These claims were rejected by the spokesman, Xinhua said, quoting him as saying assertions in some foreign media that the software was an intrusion of privacy were "groundless" and "irresponsible".
Computer makers had been told that from July 1, they must either pre-install the Green Dam Youth Escort software or include it on a disc accompanying all new personal computers sold in the country.
The United States and European Union, industry groups, Internet freedom advocates and even some Chinese state media reports had criticised the plan as a new threat to Internet freedom in China, which has the world's largest online population at roughly 300 million.
Following the announcement, a US computer trade association welcomed the postponement.
"We're pleased with the delay on this issue that is part of a broader, historic struggle between openness and repression -- not just in China but Iran and North Korea," said Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
In Brussels, spokesman Martin Selmayr said the European Commission's standpoint on what it last week called China's intention to "censor the Internet and limit freedom of expression" was unchanged by the delay.
"We maintain our position. We believe that in every country of the world there should be freedom of expression and access to the Internet and we will watch the situation in China," he said.
Beijing has consistently countered that the filter is designed to shelter youngsters from pornography and violence, and give parents control over what their children view online.
China has a history of blocking sites carrying politically sensitive topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on democracy protesters, the banned Falungong spiritual movement, or criticism of the government.
China's Communist Party censors have struggled in recent years to keep pace with an explosion of online content, which is often the only outlet for ordinary Chinese to vent concerns about official corruption and government abuses.
Authorities have typically couched periodic clampdowns in terms of halting the spread of obscene material.
But last week, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the rule may violate World Trade Organisation regulations.
Researchers at the University of Michigan who examined the software also said it contained serious security vulnerabilities that could allow outside parties to take control of computers running it via remote access.
It added that the software's text filter blocked words that included phrases considered politically sensitive to authorities.
Some Chinese Web users had called for a boycott of all online activities on the July 1 roll-out of the regulation.