China Postpones Web Filtering Software

The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets are reporting that the Chinese government has decided to delay its requirement for PC manufacturers to include Internet filtering software in every computer sold in China beginning today.

The government said that PC manufacturers had complained that they had been given too little time to comply with the directive, and so a government spokesperson said,

"Based on this factual situation, postponing of pre-installation is allowed."

It is unclear whether this "postponement" will turn into a permanent one, however.

The WSJ story indicates that the Chinese government isn't totally abandoning its plans, and will continue to push the filtering software into schools and Internet cafes. China has faced a barrage of criticism from foreign governments, industry groups, and its own people over the plan.

The WSJ, which first broke the story, has more articles here, here and here on the controversy.

In a related story, Eric Schmidt, chairman and chief executive of Google, said that attempts by China and India (and he should have added Australia) to censor the Internet are futile, and countries do so at their peril, the London Telegraph reported last week. China ordered Google a few weeks ago to stop access to overseas "pornographic and vulgar" sites

Of course, not all government censorship or restriction is overt. The US government, for example, views Internet gambling as illegal. So instead of trying to ban access to Internet gambling sites, it has frozen over $30 million in the accounts of five payment processors that handle the winnings of some 27,000 online poker players.

On-line poker companies are fighting back, but I suspect that attacking revenue sources will be a more common mechanism governments will resort to in order to discourage or stop things they don't like on the Internet.

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