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From July 1, all PCs sold in China must have a government censorship programme pre-installed. The software, called “Green Dam Youth Escort” will block access to websites on a list constantly updated by the government.
The Communist government has yet to formally announce the move to its public, but The Wall Street Journal has already broken the story in the west, and the IDG News Service has sighted an official directive on the subject, and interviewed the software’s author.
The software’s ostensible target is pornographic websites, making the initiative not dissimilar to the ISP-level filtering programme currently being trialled by the Australian government.
However, commentators fear the Chinese government - which blocked Twitter, Bing and other sites during last week’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, claiming, with high farce, that it was "Internet Maintenance Day" - will continue its track record of using online tools for broader political censorship.
Search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing (formally Microsoft Live) already comply with Chinese government censorship requests under a programme called the Global Network Initiative.
Self-censorship is judged the price of entry to the Chinese market. The companies maintain it is better to engage with than isolate China, and have pledged to be transparent about the content they block.
PC makers will also be loathe to give up access to what is fast becoming the world’s largest market (40 million PCs were sold in China last year).
The Journal quotes a spokeswoman for HP (second in the market behind the US/China Lenovo), who offers the chilly:
"[HP 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."