Despite reports earlier this week that the Chinese government was backing off its requirement that all new computers sold after July 1 have the censor-spyware platform Green Dam-Youth Escort installed, it now looks like there has been no such let-up in their commitment to this program. The New York Times reports:
American computer makers say the Chinese government has not backed down from a requirement that Internet censorship software be preinstalled on all computers sold in China after July 1, despite reports this week that the rule had been relaxed.
In a further sign that Chinese officials are trying to assert more Internet control, the city of Beijing wants to recruit 10,000 volunteers by summer’s end to monitor online content, said an employee of the city government’s Spiritual Civilization Office.
Four trade groups based in the United States have sent a statement to the Chinese government asking it to “reconsider implementing its new mandatory filtering software requirement.”
On Wednesday, the major American computer makers said they had yet to hear anything concrete from China regarding the possibility of making installations of Green Dam optional.
Confusion was sown Monday when China Daily, the country’s official English-language newspaper, quoted an unnamed official in the software department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology saying that the government was requiring that the software be offered on a CD-ROM packaged with new computers or be placed on hard drives as setup files only.
Some people interpreted that as the government backing down from its rule that Green Dam be installed, but soon it became clear that the official was not speaking in an authoritative role. Employees at the ministry’s software department, reached by telephone, refused to clarify the government’s position. No government official has given any statement this week indicating that the policy has changed.
Well, there you go. China hasn’t back down yet and it’s not clear if they will. The question then becomes, will foreign tech companies comply with this unethical request? Will American computer companies like HP and Dell help the Chinese government spy on their citizenry and limit what information they can find on the internet? Or will they show some spine and commit to not doing the Chinese government’s dirty work for them? We’ll see what happens, but I’m not about to place any sum of money betting that American tech companies will do the right thing at the expense of access to the Chinese market.