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China requires porn-blocking software on personal computers

The software can also bar other websites through the use of keywords rather than specific Web addresses, the program developer said. The program can be uninstalled.

June 09, 2009|Associated Press

BEIJING — China is requiring personal computers sold in the country to carry software that can block online pornography and other websites, potentially giving one of the world's most sophisticated censorship regimes even more control over the Internet.

The software's developer said Monday that the tool would give parents more oversight by preventing computers from accessing sites with pornographic pictures or language. Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., which won a government contract to develop the Green Dam-Youth Escort filtering software, was compiling a database of sites to block.

Although porn sites are initially targeted, the software could be used to block other websites through the use of keywords rather than specific Web addresses.

Parents can also add their own sites to the blocking list, said Zhang Chenmin, general manager of Jinhui.

"If a father doesn't want his son to be exposed to content related to basketball or drugs, he can block all websites related to those things," Zhang said.

He said users could disable blocking of any site on the list or even uninstall the software completely, but they will not be able to see the full database. He said the software does not monitor or send data to third parties.

China, which has the world's largest population of Internet users at more than 250 million, also has one of the world's tightest controls over the Internet.

Through such mechanisms as network-level filters installed at the nation's Internet service providers, the government routinely blocks political websites, especially ones that it considers socially destabilizing such as sites that challenge the ruling Communist Party, promote democratic reform or advocate independence for Tibet.

The government also bans Internet pornography and this year launched a nationwide crackdown that led to the shuttering of more than 1,900 websites.

Websites including Google and Baidu, China's most popular search engine, also have been criticized for linking to suspect sites.

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