China yesterday defended a new requirement that personal computers sold in the country carry a software that filters online content, just hours after Microsoft said the rule raised issues of freedom of expression, privacy and security that “need to be properly addressed.”
The statement by the US software giant came after a US computer industry association denounced the Chinese move and leading US personal computer makers said they were studying its ramifications.
Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) defended Beijing’s administration of the Internet, saying it was in accordance with the law and that the software “is aimed at blocking and filtering some unhealthy content, including pornography and violence.”
“If you have a child, or if you’re expecting a child, I think you could understand the concerns of parents about the unhealthy contents on the Internet,” Qin said at a regular briefing.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology posted a notice to all PC vendors on its Web site yesterday that they will be required to pre-load the “Green Dam-Youth Escort” filtering software on units to be sold in China beginning on July 1, including imported PCs.
The ministry’s notice to computer vendors said the “Green Dam” program would either be installed on the hard drive or enclosed on a compact disc. The notice said PC makers would be required to tell authorities how many PCs they have shipped with the software, which is made by a Chinese developer under contract with the government.
A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement on Monday: “Microsoft believes that the availability of appropriate parental control tools is an important societal consideration for industry and governments around the world.”
“At the same time, Microsoft is committed to helping advance the free flow of information and to encouraging transparency, deliberation and restraint with respect to Internet governance,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, we agree with others in industry and around the world that important issues such as freedom of expression, privacy, system reliability and security need to be properly addressed.”
“Blocking access to pornography sounds like an acceptable goal,” Washington-based Computer & Communications Industry Association president Ed Black said on Monday. “But the problem is that it’s all too easy to use the same technology to expand the censorship.”