Chinese surfers call for web boycott

Chinese surfers are calling on fellow web users to stay offline on July 1, the date controversial censorship software is required to be shipped with every new PC.

Chinese surfers call for web boycott

New regulations from Beijing mandate “Green Dam”, a program sold by Jinhui, be shipped with personal computers after July 1. China says the filter is designed to block pornography.

But many web users and activists both inside and outside China fear a campaign against “unhealthy” sites is a pretext for a wider crackdown on groups and websites that the government fears or disapproves of.

The US embassy said it viewed with concern any attempt to restrict the free flow of information, and was worried about both the potential impact on trade of the software and the serious technical issues raised by the use of Green Dam.

Outspoken Beijing artist Ai Weiwei, who helped design the landmark Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium but has become an increasingly vocal critic of the government, called on web users to boycott use of the internet on the day of Green Dam’s debut.

In a post on Twitter, Ai called for the low key protests to mark a day that is also the anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party.

“Stop any online activities, including working, reading, chatting, blogging, gaming and mailing,” Ai wrote in the Chinese-language post. “Don’t explain your behavior.”

“It’s an online protest without any cost or risk,” Ai said. “It aims to oppose internet censorship.”

“I haven’t counted the number of supporters, but there are many of them,” he added.

His message has already been picked up and passed on by other internet users backing the call for a day offline.

According to the makers of the software, it already has 50 million users. However, the company admitted last week that a flaw in the code left users vulnerable to hackers.

The rollout of Green Dam has come on the heels of a wider, long-running campaign to “clean up” the internet.

The government last week condemned the Chinese-language version of Google and several domestic sites, including high profile Mop and Tencent, for “disseminating pornographic and vulgar information” and asked them to remove some content.

Analysts say the Communist Party is fighting to stifle dissent in a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the 20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

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