China delays Net filtering; Australia sticks to its guns

Anyone familiar with the state of the Internet in China probably knows that they’re pretty much the poster child for state-sponsored filtering especially as it pertains to elements that the central Chinese authority would rather not be discussed and disseminated widely. Google for “Tiananmen Square Massacre” or “Falun Gong” in Beijing and you’ll get a distinctly different result than if you did the same search in Melbourne.

It’s surprising to discover then that according to this MSNBC report China’s actually backing off from filtering technology right at a time when Australia seems to be steaming ahead to adopt it. The technology in case in China is the controversial “Green Dam Youth Escort” software that Chinese authorities were keen to install in every PC in order to ensure filtering. (There’s definitely something lost in translation with an internet sanity filter having the words “youth escort” and “dam” in it…) Given the general moral panic that surrounds any attempt at intelligent discussion around net filtering we can’t help but thinking that tagging your filtering software with the words “Youth Escort” is just asking for trouble but that’s not actually the Chinese government’s stated reasoning behind delaying the mandatory installation program.

The official reasoning is due to PC manufacturers not having enough time to implement the changes necessary at a production level. Officially this is just a “postponement” of the Green Dam package not its dumping but it’s being heralded as a victory within China where unusually the state owned media even weighed in on the issue against party lines.

Meanwhile in a little land down under we’re still continuing with trials of Internet filtering albeit at a level that the Chinese government already uses on its citizens rather than a pre-installed PC hardware level as well as the news breaking late last week that games sites – and those that sell games – will fall under the filtering banner if and when it’s finally passed into law. Quite how the government plans to filter flash-based games that can be programmed and online in very short order is unclear with a spokesperson telling the Sydney Morning Herald that the plan would cover “computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification.

You know things are getting bad when Australia’s looking repressive compared to China a fact also highlighted last week by the fact that the Australian Government might just win an award for its efforts in Net filtering. Not the kind of award it’s likely to send an ambassador out to accept however – the Government and Senator Conroy specifically have been nominated by the the UK Internet Industry as a 2009 “Internet Villain”For continuing to promote network-level blocking despite significant national and international opposition”.