China hits pause on mandatory filtering software

China's flagPC makers won't have to meet the July 1 deadline to preinstall or prepackage China's Green Dam Youth Project, and the new deadline is still somewhat nebulous. Chinese authorities still plan to offer the software to schools and Internet cafes at that time, though.

The Chinese government has decided to delay the implementation of its controversial client-side filtering software, Green Dam Youth Escort. The deadline for PC makers to preinstall or package the software was originally set for July 1, but it has now been pushed back to an unspecified date.

A representative from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) confirmed to Xinhua that the deadline had been moved at the request of some computer makers. As a result, the deadline of July 1 won't be enforced for PC makers, though the ministry still plans to provide free downloads of Green Dam for schools and Internet cafes as of that date. "The ministry would also keep on soliciting opinions to perfect the preinstallation plan," wrote Xinhua.

News first came out about China's plan to mandate the Web filtering software earlier this month. Green Dam was spun as a way for parents to block porn from their home computers. The blacklists can be updated remotely, however, making Green Dam quite an attractive option for a government that likes to keep tight control over what kind of content its citizens are exposed to.

Soon thereafter, the University of Michigan soon discovered that Green Dam was plagued with serious security vulnerabilities. Not only can malicious websites easily take advantage of the security bugs to run arbitrary code on the user's computer, much of the blacklist content was apparently stolen verbatim from commercial filtering programs sold in the US. Exploit code was even published online, but that failed to discourage China's lawmakers at the time—the MIIT insisted that it was still moving forward with the plan as recently as last week.

Given China's reasoning for pushing back the deadline, it doesn't appear as if authorities are reconsidering the implications as much as they're simply trying to give PC makers more time. Whatever the reason, the consumer electronics industry is happy about the delay.

“We're pleased with the delay on this issue that is part of a broader, historic struggle between openness and repression—not just in China but Iran and North Korea," said Computer & Communications Industry Association president Ed Black in a statement. "Ultimately, we would like to see the US government negotiate issues of Internet openness and freedom in a broad, systematic way as part of trade and other international agreements. That way it’s easier to take action on the trade and human rights issues raised by initiatives like Green Dam.”

Sony isn't one of those that will need the deadline extension, though—a document surfaced this week claiming that the PC maker has already begun including the software on its machines, but claims no responsibility for any damage caused by the software.

Source: ars technica

Tags: China, Internet

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