June 25, 2009

US Requests Drop Of Chinese Internet Filter Rule

Prominent US trade executives announced they have submitted a request to the Chinese government pushing for the relinquishment of a new rule demanding all computers be installed with Internet filtering software, the AFP reported.

China may be breaking the established terms of agreement with the World Trade Organization by making it mandatory for all computers within its borders to operate with the "Green Dam" program, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

"China is putting companies in an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications and network security issues," Locke said.

In a joint statement to the press, Locke and Kirk said they had written letters to their counterparts at China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Commerce. 

By requiring the Chinese-made Green Dam filtering software, China hopes to ensure a child-friendly Internet world, free of pornography, in the nation with the world's largest online population.

However, trade and rights groups argue that Green Dam is simply another effort by Chinese government to manage access to the Internet and weed out politically sensitive subject matter and opposing views.

"Protecting children from inappropriate content is a legitimate objective, but this is an inappropriate means and is likely to have a broader scope," Kirk said.

"Mandating technically flawed Green Dam software," he said, "and denying manufacturers and consumers freedom to select filtering software is an unnecessary and unjustified means to achieve that objective, and poses a serious barrier to trade."

Chinese authorities agreed to meet with US embassy officials last week to hear their "concern" regarding the software.  The officials had hoped Beijing would drop the rule without posing demands publicly.

Chinese media reports on Tuesday indicated that Beijing would not back down from the new rule.


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