Public Pressure Blocks China’s ‘Green Dam’ Plan

Chinese bloggers and artists, and rights advocates around the globe, are celebrating Beijing’s postponement of a wildly unpopular plan to mandate the inclusion of filtering software in all computers sold in China as of July 1.

The decision to postpone the “Green Dam Youth Escort” program — which Chinese officials described as a concerted effort to address pornography on the Internet — followed weeks of massive domestic and international pressure over concerns the software would serve as a vehicle to increase state censorship. The move may also have been in recognition of the fact that computer companies’ needed more time to implement the requirements.

Entreaties to reconsider the program came from many sectors, including multinational companies that normally avoid overtly public positions on touchy China issues.

Industry groups — including the Information Technology Industry Council and Software & Information Industry Association — released a statement urging China to shelve its demand, endorsing instead “an open and healthy dialogue on how parental control software can be offered in the market in ways that ensure privacy, system reliability, freedom of expression, the free flow of information, security and user choice.”

On the activist side, Human Rights Watch led a campaign urging computer companies to resist the plan as a “serious new threat to free expression.” The plan, HRW argued, “could further intrude on user privacy, undermine user choice, and have the potential to make multinational companies complicit in those efforts.”