Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"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."

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  2. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  3. EU lobby register still riddled with errors
  4. Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk
  5. More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies
  6. Study: EU electricity transition sped into high gear in 2022
  7. Russia and China weaponised pandemic to sow distrust, MEPs hear
  8. Frontex to spend €100m on returning migrants this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us