U.S. urges China to drop Web filter plan

Green Dam software could violate world trade rules

U.S. criticizes China on Web limits
China Web boycott called to mark filter debut

WASHINGTON -- Top U.S. officials urged China on Wednesday to abandon its proposal to require Internet filters installed on personal computers starting next month, warning the step could violate world trade rules.

"China is putting companies in an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications and network security issues," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement.

China says the "Green Dam" Internet filtering software is needed to protect children from pornographic and violent images.

But critics in China have said the software, sold by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co, is technically flawed and could be used to spy on Internet users and to block other sites that Beijing considers politically offensive.

Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk voiced their concerns in a joint letter to their Chinese counterparts after China Daily reported Tuesday that Beijing "will not back away" from the July 1 requirement for the filter to be installed on computers produced and sold in China.

"Protecting children from inappropriate content is a legitimate objective, but this is an inappropriate means and is likely to have a broader scope," Kirk said.

"Mandating technically flawed Green Dam software and denying manufacturers and consumers freedom to select filtering software is an unnecessary and unjustified means to achieve that objective, and poses a serious barrier to trade," Kirk added.

The proposed new rules raises fundamental question regarding the transparency of China's regulatory practices and concerns about compliance with World Trade Organization rules, the U.S. officials said in their joint statement.

They said they had heard numerous complaints from global technology companies, Chinese citizens and the worldwide media about the stability of the software, the scope and extent of the filtering activities and its security weaknesses.