Reactions, discussion, debate continues over Web-filtering in China – UPDATED

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

While American tech pundits and politicians alike blather about The Great Firewall of China – never reading beyond the first couple of press articles covering the topic – discussion, changes, continue inside the same communities in China. Here’s part:

Should every computer in China be installed with a filter software? And should the government make a decision before making the software known to the public and listening to their views?

Heated debates have arisen since the government said earlier this month that all computers sold in China would have to include software packages for filtering out online pornography.

On June 9, a filtering program named “Green Dam and Escorting Minors” was introduced to the public by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The software was said to be able to identify and block pornographic or violent images and words on the Internet. The package could also help parents control how much time their children spent online.

According to the MIIT, all new computers in China must have this software package pre-installed as of July 1.

I don’t know if the MIIT has already started backing off – or these are simple clarifications from bureaucrats accustomed to offering oversimplified statements.

As it stands, now, the software may either be installed on the hard drive of new computers like the bloatware that comes with most PC’s or reside on a CD delivered with the purchase. It is NOT required to be installed or enabled.

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

There are millions or even tens of millions of web pages with content that could be classified as pornographic. According to a report from the China Youth and Children Research Center inn April, about 48 percent of Chinese minors had visited “unhealthy websites.”

However, there are a lot of people who are hesitant or skeptical when it comes to accepting the government’s decision to install the software.

Ma Pengfei, who runs a personal computer business in northwest Beijing’s Zhongguancun district, told Xinhua: “Few clients have asked about [Green Dam], and fewer said they want to install it…”

Ma Pengfei said: “The government’s original intention was good, but it is not proper for the government to make the installation mandatory when the public know little about the software…”

MIIT spokesman Liu Lihua said that the software could be switched off and uninstalled by computer users.

Reports from anyone who’s actually run Green Dam say it’s about as stupid as the average Net Nanny kind of software used by individuals and corporations in the West. Guaranteed users who try it will soon be blogging about something filtered out because it’s yellow instead of blue.

The reality is that Americans face these assaults on freedom of choice from the same puritan mentality. Between Congress and the FCC, similar laws are passed every couple of years. The result is millions of dollars and hours have to be dedicated to a defense of Constitutional Rights. Because, after all – our government doesn’t consider that a priority.

I don’t see a helluva lot of difference.

UPDATE: Well, reacting to continued criticism, the Chinese government has indefinitely postponed the rollout of Green Dam. I wish we could get a response that quick from the FCC. 🙂

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