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China Backpedals on Filtering Software Order

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China has backed down on its mandate that all personal computers sold within its borders come with preinstalled Internet-filtering software. The software, called Green Dam Youth Escort, will still come with all PCs sold on the mainland beginning July 1, but computer users will not be required to install it.

The software attracted heavy criticism in the form of legal challenges, petitions, and satirical cartoons. Beijing lawyer Li Fangping submitted a request to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology demanding a public hearing on the "legitimacy and rationality" of forcing computer makers to include the software with every unit sold. Chinese blogger Yang Hengjun says the Internet plays a major part in the lives of Chinese citizens and allows them to criticize the government in a way that was not possible before. For example, the Internet played a central role in exposing recent scandals that were particularly dangerous, including the contamination of infant formula with industrial chemicals and the structural deficiencies of Chinese schools.

China has the world's most extensive system of Web monitoring and censorship, and continues to impose more regulations in response to blogging and online communications, but the Internet is still far more open than the country's strictly controlled print and TV media. Critics argue that even packaging the software with new computers will lead to greater self-censorship among Chinese Internet users because they will fear that the program may secretly be running in the background.

From The Associated Press
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