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China delays censorware mandate for PC makers

Says some PC makers needed more time; new deadline not set

By Owen Fletcher
June 30, 2009 09:45 AM ET

IDG News Service - China postponed its requirement for PC makers to ship Internet filtering software with new computers late today, just hours before the deadline it previously set.

China made the decision in response to PC maker concerns that shipping the software with all machines would take more time, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The government did not set a new deadline, but said the MIIT would "keep on soliciting opinions to perfect the pre-installation plan."

China will still continue placing the software on PCs in Internet cafes and public schools across the country, the Xinhua report said.

China had previously ordered foreign and domestic PC makers to include the filtering program pre-installed or on a CD-ROM with new machines by July 1. But controversy quickly grew around the software, ranging from software piracy and a potential disruption of trade to free speech and user privacy. Those issues had gone unresolved as China stayed mute on whether it would extend the deadline or penalize PC makers that did not comply with the order.

"There are still so many question marks hanging around this," Bryan Ma, an IDC analyst, said in an interview before the announcement.

China says it mandated the software, called Green Dam Youth Escort, to protect children from "harmful" information on the Internet. The filter can be uninstalled and mainly blocks pornography, but it also blocks political content including Web sites that mention Falun Gong, the spiritual movement banned as a cult in China.

Trade associations, rights groups and U.S. government offices protested the mandate. A group of 22 trade associations from the U.S., Europe and Japan last week sent a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urging reconsideration of the rule. That followed similar calls from the U.S. government, including a letter sent to Chinese officials by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

China had not publicly responded before today. State media last week cited an official saying the deadline had not changed, but it cited another saying foreign PC makers including Dell Inc. would probably not meet the deadline.

Few foreign PCs appear to have shipped in China with Green Dam. Spokeswomen for Dell and Hewlett-Packard Co. reached before today's announcement declined to add to past comments on whether the companies would ship the software. Dell last week said it was still reviewing the regulation, while HP said it was seeking additional information.

One computer sales employee at Gome, a Chinese electronics retailer, said he had never heard of Green Dam when asked if it was included with any of the store's PCs.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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