China caused an uproar in the international technology community earlier this year by suddenly mandating—then indefinitely suspending—a requirement that all new computers ship with “Green Dam” Internet filtering software pre-installed. The Chinese government said the intent behind Green Dam was to prevent children from accessing violent and pornographic content via the Internet; however, the software was also found to block politically sensitive content and was widely seen as yet another extension of China’s enormous Internet censorship efforts. Critics also pointed out that Green Dam could be a vector for attacking users’ computers, as any flaws or vulnerabilities in the software could suddenly put million of users’ personal information (and computers) at risk.
Now, word comes that Malaysia is considering mandating the use of Internet filters to block pornographic content. According to the country’s information minister Rais Yatim, the goal of the filtering technology would be to protect Malaysian children both from being exposed to pornography and from being victimized by it.
Malaysia has a population of about 27 million people, and while it does not operate an Internet censorship regime at the level of China’s, the country has imprisoned at least one political blogger without trial using its sedition laws. Critics levy the same charges against Malaysia’s proposed Internet filtering mandate that they leveled against Green Dam: that the software would extend the regime’s ability to block politically sensitive information, and the software itself could easily pose a privacy and security risk to its users.
Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has since said the country has no plans to implement Internet filtering, describing the technology as “not effective,” according to the Malaysian Insider.
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