New Chinese Initiative Threatens to Expand State Censorship Online

Washington

Freedom House is concerned that the Chinese government plans to further restrict freedom of expression and enhance its online surveillance capability by requiring that new web blocking software be included with all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1.

Freedom House recommends that Chinese authorities immediately publish the source code for the Green Dam software to allow independent experts to verify the software’s stated use. The company that developed Green Dam, which has ties to China’s government, claims that the software will only be used to protect citizens from illicit content.

“Individual citizens, not the state, should have the ultimate say over the kinds of content that they can access online,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. “China has the most sophisticated internet censorship and surveillance apparatus in the world, which suggests that this new software is more likely a Trojan horse that authorities will use to infiltrate citizens’ homes and violate their right to privacy.”

China is ranked Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report for its extensive controls on internet content and activity. These include technical filtering, prepublication censorship, post-publication censorship and proactive manipulation. Internet users who publish politically-sensitive material face harassment, criminal prosecution and imprisonment. China is home to the world’s largest number of people imprisoned for internet activity.

“China’s control over the internet so far has been limited to public spaces such as cybercafés and internet service providers, but Green Dam threatens to extend this reach into the private sphere,” said Windsor.

Freedom House is also concerned that the introduction of Green Dam has implications far beyond China’s domestic market, as China is becoming a major player in the computer manufacturing business. This creates the potential that China’s filtering and surveillance software could make it into the international market.

China is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.

For more information on China, visit:
Freedom on the Net 2009: China
Freedom in the World 2008: China
Freedom of the Press 2008: China
Mass Media Control in Contemporary China

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972.

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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