Chinese internet users are planning a one-day boycott of the web on July 1st to draw attention to the introduction of the controversial government-mandated internet filter on all new machines.
The boycott has a high-profile supporter in Ai Weiwei (pictured), who helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium used in last year’s Beijing Summer Olympics. Writing in Twitter he said (translated) “Stop any online activities, including working, reading, chatting, blogging, gaming and mailing. Don’t explain your behavior.”
That last request is designed so that protesters can make their point with no fear of reprisals. An individual staying off-line for the day can’t be accused of doing anything wrong, but the combined effects of all the protesters should be easily measurable. The boycott may also serve as a quiet way of making a broader political protest as July 1st is also the anniversary of the foundation of China’s ruling Communist party.
According to Reuters, there’s been some very public opposition to the filter plans including an “influential” business magazine criticizing the scheme, and a poll on the online edition of the Beijing Times showing a majority calling it an invasion of privacy.
There has also been a note of protest from the US embassy in Beijing which released a statement saying it was “concerned” about both the filter’s effects on trade (on US manufacturers exporting to China) and its restrictions on internet access and free speech. That may sound mild, but diplomatic staff often use seemingly-restrained language to get their point across.
The filter software, known as Green Dam, has been provoking controversy since its announcement. Researchers in Michigan discovered it had major security flaws, potentially allowing either hackers or the firm operating it to take control of computers remotely. (The Chinese government has since ordered security loopholes to be blocked.) The researchers also confirmed that the filter, billed as being solely for pornography and other adult content, does block some political sites.
Meanwhile a Californian firm which produces parental control software claims sections of Green Dam have been stolen directly from its own Cybersitter product.