Chinese Delay Plan for Censor Software

Wall Street Journal (07/01/09) P. A1; Chao, Loretta; Dean, Jason; Lin, Bai

The Chinese government has postponed its mandate that manufacturers embed Web-filtering software in all new PCs sold in the country, in the wake of fervent opposition inside and outside China.  The Xinhua news agency quoted a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology representative as saying that some PC makers claimed they did not have sufficient time to meet the July 1 deadline, in which case a delay was permissible.  The postponement alleviates global PC companies' worries that complying with the rules would make them susceptible to legal liability and allegations of aiding censorship, yet they also were reluctant to openly challenge China's government, given the heavy concentration of both PC production and PC sales in the country.  The Chinese government has said the purpose of implementing the Web-filtering software is to prevent youngsters from viewing online pornography and other "harmful content," and it insists that the software "definitely has no capability for collecting users' information or monitoring their Internet behavior."  Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) president Dean Garfield says the computer industry is in favor of enabling parents to block access to objectionable online material, but is against any requirement that specifies a particular company's product.  Isaac Mao with Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society says the Chinese initiative "has lost legitimacy" and that the government's enforcement of the rule would be impossible.  There also are indications that the plan has broadened public interest in China regarding questions about government inquisitiveness and censorship.  The postponement does not signal the end of the issue, and a Hewlett-Packard representative said the company is collaborating with the ITIC "to seek additional information, clarify open questions, and monitor developments on this matter."

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