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China not demolishing Green Dam

Censorware not going anywhere after all

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China's controversial mandatory censorware has only been delayed rather than abandoned, according to state media.

The Chinese government postponed regulations that PCs sold in China had to come with locally-developed Green Dam Youth Escort filtering software pre-installed just hours before the 1 July deadline, sparking speculation that the plan had been placed on the back burner, perhaps indefinitely.

However, an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told official English language China Daily that the delay was only temporary.

"The government will definitely carry on the directive on Green Dam. It's just a matter of time," the unnamed official said, China Daily reports. The official line is that PC manufacturers need more time to comply with the new rules and that this is the sole reason for the delay.

Previous coverage in the state media suggested the Green Dam project, which provoked an official objection from the US government as well as sustained criticism from security and privacy activists, had been delayed indefinitely. "No new date was given and the plan may drift into oblivion," Global Times an English-language paper published by the Chinese Communist Party said on Wednesday, AFP reports.

Green Dam is supposedly designed to protect Chinese youth from porn and other objectionable material. Privacy activists were quick to point out that the software, which is already in use within China, also suppresses politically sensitive material, including references to Tibet and the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

Security researchers discovered and published vulnerabilities involving the software. US developer Solid Oak Software charged that Green Dam used stolen code. The US government objected over the lack of time given to US PC manufacturers to either bundle the software or include it on a CD accompanying machines destined for China.

Pressure, building on all sides, led to an apparent (and rare) climbdown by the Chinese authorities. Celebration within China over the apparent abandonment of the plan now seems all too premature. It now appears that only logistic and trade regulation objections ever stood in the way of China's client-side censorware plan, which will supplement the country's already considerable server-side filtering regime. ®

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