EU: Chinese censorship of internet ‘unacceptable’

The European Union (EU) accused China of “unacceptable” internet censorship on Friday, as Brussels rejected Beijing’s claim that an internet filter due to be introduced is instead aimed at blocking pornography.

“The aim of this internet filter, contrary to what Chinese authorities contend, is clearly to censor internet and limit freedom of expression,” the European Commission said in a statement.

“We therefore urge China to postpone the implementation of this mandate and request that a meeting is organised at technical level to better understand what is at stake,” it added.

The matter will be raised at “information society” talks hosted by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in Beijing on July 9, the statement said.

China plans to include the filtering software with all PCs sold there from July 1.

Beijing says the Chinese-made Green Dam software will filter out pornography, ensuring that more young people can use the internet in the nation with the world’s largest online population.

China has also said that users can choose whether to load the software — called Green Dam Youth Escort — on to their computers or not.

However, overseas and domestic internet users have viewed the new software rule as an attempt by China to filter sensitive websites.

“Blocking or filtering certain Internet contents is absolutely unacceptable to the EU,” the commission said.

On Wednesday the US said China may be violating World Trade Organisation obligations by its actions.

The Chinese designers of the software last week said they were trying to fix security glitches in the programme.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, who examined the software, had said earlier it contained serious security vulnerabilities that could allow outside parties to take control of computers running it via remote access.

It also added that the software’s text filter blocked words that included obscenities and phrases considered politically sensitive to China’s ruling Communist Party.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm stressed that “freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of our democratic societies …

“Media pluralism, freedom of expression and press freedom are underlying elements of European democracy.”

The row over the Chinese software comes as technology takes an emblematic role in the protests in Iran, where critics of the clerical regime have turned to microblogging site Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites to mobilise.

The commission statement went on to say that “China’s insistence that the Green Dam filter be installed in new computers proves once again that censorship takes place in this country”.

And it underlined that “China cannot compete with other powers of the world only at the economic level without paying attention to freedom of expression”. — AFP

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