Chinese officials rejected yesterday media reports that claimed a kind of spy-ware will be installed on all computers to be sold in the country, in order to "manage and control" Internet users.
Pornography filtering software will be installed on all computers sold in China from July 1, the China Daily reported, but authorities in Beijing have promised the software is not complicated enough to act as spy-ware.
"The software is designed to filter pornography on the Internet and that's the sole purpose of it," the newspaper quoted Liu Zheng-rong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office, as saying.
"The nationwide move is purely to protect the youngsters from Internet porn and violence. The software has proved to be effective in trials in schools," Liu said.
Qin Gang, spokesman with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asserted yesterday the Internet had always been "open" in China.
Qin also said that the government's administration of the Internet was carried out in accordance with Chinese law and designed to stop the spread of harmful information, typically porn. "The Internet filter software is targeted at protecting youths from the spread of pornography and other unhealthy content," he said.
"I think anyone who has a child, or would like one, could understand parents' concern about unhealthy content on the Internet."
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has invested 41.7 million yuan ($6.1 million) on the software, which will be installed on new computers.
Zhang Chenmin, general manager of the Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co, which won the bid to develop the so-called "Green Dam-Youth Escort" filtering software last year, said: "Our software is simply not capable of spying on Internet users, it is only a filter."
Zhang said he complained at the Beijing office of the Wall Street Journal, which published the article that accused the Chinese government of using the filter to control Internet usage.
"The paper falsely claimed that our software can be used as spyware without having a clear understanding of the product," Zhang said.
Simon Ye, an analyst from computer research firm Gartner, said users could choose to uninstall the software or even reformat the hard drive if they didn't like the software.
The filtering software is the latest step taken by the authorities to clamp down on young people accessing porn and violent contents.
In 2007, Chinese online game operators were ordered to install anti-addiction software in games. However, young people quickly found a way around this law by registering multiple accounts so the amount of time they spent online could not be monitored.