Thursday

13th Aug 2020

EU condemns Chinese roll-out of internet censorship software

  • Chinese authorities say the software is necessary to prevent children accessing pornographic websites (Photo: Johannes Jansson//norden.org)

The European commission added its voice to growing condemnation of Chinese plans to enforce the use of its 'Green Dam' filtering software on Thursday (25 June) and urged the country's authorities to postpone the decision.

Chinese officials say the mass installment of the internet filter is necessary to stop children gaining access to pornographic websites, while critics counter that it would enable the country's Communist Party to spy on internet users and block access to politically sensitive websites.

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"The aim of this internet filter, contrary to what Chinese authorities contend, is clearly to censor the internet and limit freedom of expression," the commission's spokesman for information society and media, Martin Selmayr, told EUobserver.

Last month, China's ministry of industry and information technology announced that all personal computers sold in China from 1 July onwards must be installed with the Green Dam internet-filtering software.

"China's insistence that the Green Dam filter be installed in new computers proves once again that censorship takes place in this country," said Mr Selmayr.

"China cannot compete with other powers of the world only at the economic level without paying attention to freedom of expression," he added.

The announcement will add to pressure on the Chinese government to reverse its decision, with US trade representative Ron Kirk and commerce secretary Gary Locke lodging a formal complaint with their Chinese counterparts on Wednesday.

Mr Kirk said US companies had been given very little time to comply with the request for all computers sold to China to be pre-installed with the Green Dam software and suggested the US might file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation.

US companies have also expressed their unwillingness to be complicit in any form of political censorship.

Iranian tensions intensify debate

The issue of internet censorship has been propelled further into the foreground this week following the extensive use of the internet by Iranian citizens as a means to protest against last Sunday's presidential elections that many claim were fraudulent.

Opposition groups have used the micro-blogging site Twitter and social networking sites such as Facebook to organise protests and share information.

Such homegrown protest would be more difficult to organise in countries such as China where the internet comes in for greater censorship.

As Iranian authorities step up efforts to stifle use of certain websites however, the country's citizens are increasingly turning to counter-censorship software designed by Chinese computer engineers living in America to access the restricted sites.

Access to the world's leading search engine, Google, was temporarily blocked in China on Wednesday evening, a further indication of the Chinese government's growing crackdown.

The country's official news agency, Xinhua, published an article accusing Google of displaying links to "pornographic" websites among its search results.

Speaking about the Green Dam software on Thursday, Mr Selmayr said: "We urge China to postpone the implementation of this mandate and request that a meeting is organised at technical level to better understand what is at stake."

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