China moves to censor home computers
The Chinese government wants all computers sold in China after July to come with software that automatically censors the internet.

The Telegraph | June, 8 2009
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai

The move will give the government unprecedented control over what can and cannot be seen on the internet. In recent weeks, China blocked access to a host of websites, including Hotmail and Twitter, and expressed worries that the internet was becoming a tool of protest.

An issue of the state-controlled magazine, Outlook Weekly, strongly criticised local officials for not paying more attention to the internet, saying that online debate forums in China are not just "ordinary chit chat in free time" but could also be stirring trouble.

Under the directives from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which declined to comment on the topic, computer-manufacturers will be asked to install blocking software from a company with ties to the country's military.

The program, called Green Dam, is designed primarily to stop access to pornography, according to its makers, Jinhui Computer System Engineering company. "From July 1, every PC will be shipped with the software before it is sold to customers," said a member of the company's marketing department, who identified herself only as Miss Zhou.

"This is very good news for users, so they should not uninstall it. It will automatically filter pornographic images and antirevolutionary content. It will not take up much space on the hard drive. It is very stable and we have conducted many tests already," she added.

A second program, called Youth Escort, filters out rude or subversive words.

If the two programs are installed, they can allegedly transmit personal information and make it difficult for users to tell what access is being denied.

Lenovo, the Chinese company which bought IBM and which has a 26 per cent share of the local market, said it was participating in the initiative but declined to comment.

A spokesman for Dell said the company was "aware of the policy" and was working with industry groups and government representatives to "seek clarification". "We are studying it," he said, adding that no decision on whether to implement it or not had been made. Hewlett-Packard also said it was working out how to satisfy the Chinese regulators.

The Chinese PC market is the second-largest in the world, after the US.

Under the terms of the new rules, manufacturers can also ship the programme on a separate disc, but have to report how many units have been sold together with Green Dam.

"Ensuring children's safety surfing online and create a green internet space is an important mission of the communications industry," said Xi Guohua, the vice-minister of the IT ministry, last month. He added that the Green Dam software had already been downloaded more than three million times and that more than 2,000 schools are equipped with it.