China to to Require Web Filtering Software on All PCs

Posted on June 8th, 2009 Dan

Via: Wall Street Journal:

China plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites, a move that could give government censors unprecedented control over how Chinese users access the Internet.

The government, which has told global PC makers of the requirement but has yet to announce it to the public, says the effort is aimed at protecting young people from “harmful” content. The primary target is pornography, says the main developer of the software, a company that has ties to China’s security ministry and military.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Chinese government has a history of censoring a broad range of Web content. The new requirement could force PC manufacturers to choose between refusing a government order in a major market or opening themselves to charges of abetting censorship.

The software needn’t be preinstalled on each new PC — it may instead be shipped on a compact disc — giving users some choice. But if installed, foreign industry officials who have examined the software say, it could transmit personal information, cause PCs to malfunction, and make them more vulnerable to hacking. It also makes it difficult for users to tell what exactly is being blocked, officials say.

A spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard Co., which has the largest PC market share of any U.S. vendor in China, said the company is “working with the government authorities and evaluating the best way to approach this. Obviously we will focus on delivering the best customer experience while ensuring that we meet necessary regulatory requirements.”


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