China has apparently caved, suspending its effort to force personal computer makers to install filters in their machines to enable the government to censor the Internet. That’s good news coming from the world’s biggest gulag for journalists.
The government, which cracked down on dissent during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and last month's 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre, backed away from the so-called “Green Dam” project just hours before it was to go into effect. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology says Green Dam was put on hold after computer makers expressed technical difficulties in installing the censorship filters. That’s baloney.
Since March, Chinese computer makers led by Lenovo have put filters into more than 50M computers.
China maintains Green Dam protects the tender sensibilities of its people from the evils of pornography. Green Dam was also pitched as a tool to help parents control how much time their kids spend on the web.
China is not backing away from Green Dam because of pressure from the U.S. and European Union about suppressing free speech. It could care less. It is backing away after watching the Internet-fueled demonstrations in Iran.
The Iranian government tried its hardest to corral dissent on the web and at sites like YouTube and Twitter. It failed miserably.
The best outcome for China: the clumsy Big Brother attempt will just fade away. That’s the best face-saving measure. Imagine if Green Dam failed to curb information used to direct street demonstrations in China. The government’s inability to totally restrict the flow of information would be exposed.
That would prove the emperors of Beijing have no clothes.