07/01/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Internet boycott still on despite Beijing’s decision to delay mandatory filtering software

China’s government has decided to delay the mandatory installation of the Green Dam, a filtering software ostensibly designed to censor violent and pornographic websites. Boycott launched by architectural designer Ai Weiwei will still go ahead. Criticism is voiced inside and outside China. Some computer makers follow Beijing’s orders.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Criticised in China and abroad, Chinese authorities have decided to postpone the mandatory installation of the controversial "Green Dam-Youth Escort" filtering software on computers. However, an Internet boycott against the government will still go ahead today.

All computers produced or sold in China were scheduled to be installed with such software after 1 July. The software is designed to block violent and pornographic contents.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) made the decision in May but has met resistance from manufactures, international business associations and most Chinese internet users.

Last night the MIIT released a statement saying that China would delay installing the filter but did not mention when the plan would resume. It did never the less say that it will continue to offer the software free of charge to schools and cyber cafés.

According to the software’s maker, Computer System Engineering, parents and schools like the software; so far it has been downloaded 7.17 million times from its website.

None the less, at least 22 chambers of commerce and trade groups representing the world's major technology suppliers sent an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao urging the government to scrap the order.

Chinese bloggers and internet users are the harshest critics of the government plan—they are opposed to the software because it is designed to control internet content, especially certain topics the government dislikes like democracy, Tibet, Falun Gong and open discussions.

Architect Ai Weiwei is one such bloggers. Famous for his work as an artistic advisor for Beijing’s Olympic Stadium, the ‘Bird’s Nest’, he is also openly critical of the government. For this reason he has urged his fellow netizens to boycott the internet today.

Even though the authorities decided to halt the mandatory installation of the Green Dam filtering software, he said that boycott should go ahead anyway.

In his view (and that of other bloggers and net users) the delay is due to domestic and International pressures, and the battle is not won yet.

“Morally, no government has the right to say what is wrong and what is right; it damages citizens' rights to install software so rudely on every personal computer,” he said.

Still some manufacturers like Toshiba and Acer have said they were ready to provide Green Dam on disks with PCs beginning today.

Others like Hewlett-Packard and Dell declined to discuss their plans, possibly waiting for a diplomatic settlement.

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