China to equip new PCs with web-blocking software: report

China will require all personal computers sold in the country from July 1 to come with software that blocks access to certain websites, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The head of a software developer involved in devising the programme confirmed the news to AFP, saying it was aimed at protecting people from pornography.

"We are offering the software to PC makers for free because the government has paid for service fees for one year," said Bryan Zhang, chief executive of Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co.

"The software will be provided to consumers in new PCs and they have the option to install or not to install it."

China has the world's largest online population at nearly 300 million web users, and authorities have a history of blocking websites they deem politically unacceptable or offensive, a censorship system that has been dubbed the "Great firewall of China".

Zhang said foreign companies such as Dell and HP, as well as domestic firms, had been testing the software and his group had been training their sales staff.

China has in recent years sought to rein in an explosion of online content, which authorities typically say is pornography.

However, government critics say the real reason is often to quash any sort of online content that could question the rule of the Communist Party.

The Wall Street Journal report quoted foreign industry officials who examined the software as saying it could transmit personal information, crash computers or make them vulnerable to hacking.

A young sea turtle is seen on Runduma island, Wakatobi. AFP/File/Adek Berry