China delays Green Dam deploymentBEIJING – The Chinese government on Tuesday announced an indefinite delay in the requirement that all personal computers sold in the country be equipped with software to filter “inappropriate” Web content.

The software, called Green Dam-Youth Escort, would have blocked not only pornography but also some kinds of political speech, according to critics.

China’s definition of “pornography” is loose by Western standards, encompassing scientific and educational material as well as hardcore sexual imagery.

The new rule was set to go into effect July 1.

According to authorities in China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the reprieve was granted in order to allow manufacturers more time to comply. The government will continue its policy of installing the software on computers accessible to the public, especially those in schools and cybercafés.

Last week, U.S. trade officials warned the Chinese that Green Dam violates World Trade Organization rules by presenting unwarranted barriers to international free trade. In addition, the software has been accused of containing security holes that make it susceptible to attack by hackers who seek to create and deploy huge botnets.

“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 prepared statement delivered to the press after he and Trade Representative Ron Kirk sent a letter to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce expressing concern about the new mandate.

In the same statement, Kirk said, “Protecting children from inappropriate content is a legitimate objective, but this is an inappropriate means and is likely to have a broader scope. 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.”

PC makers who sell into the Chinese market have been tight-lipped about how they plan to comply with the new regulations. China is a growing market representing millions of new computer purchases annually.