Green Dam plan would have also blocked Internet gambling sites

China has delayed indefinitely a controversial plan to force computer manufacturers to bundle Internet filtering software with personal computers sold in the country.

The abrupt retreat was reported late on Tuesday by the official Xinhua news agency, which said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology would “delay the mandatory installation of the controversial ‘Green Dam-Youth Escort’ filtering software on new computers.”

The Green Dam plan, which officials said was designed to stamp out Internet pornography, was to be launched on Wednesday, but had been assailed by critics of censorship, industry groups and Washington officials as politically intrusive, technically ineffective and commercially unfair.

The software also would have blocked access to online gambling sites.

“They never expected the backlash would be so vehement,” said Wang Junxiu, an Internet entrepreneur in Beijing who has objected to Green Dam and other forms of censorship. “This will just peter out now, and the government will hope it will be soon forgotten, I’d say.”

The Ministry accepted the criticisms of computer companies, but left open the possibility of the censorship scheme returning in some form. It is generally believed that the ruling Communist Party remains wary of the Internet, which now has some 300 million users in China.