The industry and information technology minister, Li Yizhong, said the notion that the program, called Green Dam/Youth Escort, would be required on every new computer was "a misunderstanding" caused by poorly written regulations.
If this is the case, the American press had a field day with the misunderstanding. You would have thought the barbarians were at the gates.
The ministry order, first issued last May 19, unleased a public relations flood arguing that the software ran counter to China’s proclaimed goal of creating an information-based society. But if China never intended it to be a compulsory installation, and several statements stressed that this was so, then this was a media beat-up on a grand scale.
Now the goverment is saying that internet cafes, schools and other public places must use the program, but that individual consumers will be allowed to make thier own decisions. This is, in fact, slightly tougher than the original announcement and yet it is being hailed as a victory for free speech.
Although the government insists that the program is meant to shield children from online pornography, its filter — automatically updated by the government — could have targeted many topics with political overtones.
The information ministry previously had suspended the Green Dam pre-installation mandate on June 30, one day before it was to take effect, saying that computer makers needed more time.
The Thursday statement by Mr. Li appeared to make that suspension permanent. Mr. Li said the government will not force computer makers to include the program on a CD with optional software.
The New York Times reports the government recently proposed a requirement that all users of online chat rooms and bulletin boards use their real names when posting comments, a move that would stifle the sometimes-freewheeling debate on many sites. It would mean I would have to stop being gazza. And that would never do.