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US 'concerned' about free expression impact of China Internet filtering policy

[JURIST] US State Department [official website] spokesperson Ian Kelly said Monday that the US is concerned [press briefing] over China's decision to require software that would block certain Internet content. The Chinese government is requiring that all personal computers sold after July 1 include software that is designed filter certain websites. The software [China Daily report] limits citizens' ability to view violent and pornographic material on the web. Kelly said:

Officials from the State Department, [US Trade Representative], Department of Commerce based at the US Embassy in Beijing, met with government officials at the Chinese Ministry of Information, Technology, and Industry, and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to express our concerns regarding the Chinese Government’s requirement that all computers sold in China include Green Dam internet filtering software. We are concerned about Green Dam in terms of its potential impact on trade, the free flow of information, and the serious technical issues raised by the software.

We believe there are other commercially available software programs which provide users with a wide range of choices for shielding minors from illicit or inappropriate internet contact – content, which is the ostensible rationale for this. We've also asked the Chinese to engage in a dialogue on how to address these concerns.

Last week, Chinese authorities tried to alleviate concerns over the software [JURIST report] by stating that computer users will not be required to use controversial software, despite the software being packaged with new computers. The statements clarify that the government has no intention of punishing people who do not use the software. Earlier in June, the policy was challenged [JURIST report] by Chinese human rights lawyer Li Fangping, who demanded public hearings to determine if the requirement is lawful and reasonable. Internet censorship in China has been a contested issue for several years. While the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) [official website, in Chinese] oversees the censorship, the State Council Information Office and the Communist Party's Propaganda Department determines the scope of what is blocked.

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