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China Green Dam crumbles after protests

Censorship program postponed indefinitely

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China has put its controversial plan to force PC manufacturers to ship filtering software in the country on ice.

Beijing announced earlier this month that all PCs shipped in the country should include Green Dam Youth Escort software to keep young Chinese safe from porn.

The plan prompted an immediate outcry, with accusations that the scheme was simply a ruse to block political content and/or create a gigantic state-mandated botnet. This was quickly followed by a second wave of outrage, as researchers claimed to have uncovered security flaws in the software as well as code filched from a US filtering firm.

Local reports today said that the government had declared, via official news agency Xinhua, that the program had been postponed. No other details - including a new launch date - were released.

While free speech advocates may have made plenty of noise over the program, a more decisive intervention may have been that of Washington last week.

US trade authorities made reference to issues of censorship when objecting to the scheme, but paid more attention to issues of free trade. Apart from being stuck with unwanted software, (non-US) PC vendors were given an extremely tight deadline to get any pre-install program up and running.

The trade angle probably made it easier all round.

The US sounded tough on freedom of expression, the PC vendors got to appear like they might care about freedom of expression - but more importantly wriggled out of a tricky logistics situation - while the Chinese got to distance itself from a scheme that had increasingly become an own goal. ®

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