UPDATE: The Green Dam Bursts – China Backs Off on Web Filtering Requirements
July 1, 2009 Leave a comment
Possibly due to international pressure, possibly due to the fact it probably simply wouldn’t work, China has made a decision to delay the deadline for companies to install the controversial “Green Dam” software in all new computers sold in the country. The software package, formally called “Green Dam Youth Escort,” was promoted by the Chinese government as a utility to protect Chinese citizens from being exposed to pornography.
However, once the package was released to manufacturers and testing organizations it quickly became apparent the software had other features, including filtering words and topics deemed too sensitive for Internet users. Those topics include phrases like “Falun Gong,” and “7/4 (a reference to the Tianamen Square Massacre).” If a user typed sensitive phrases into a browser search window, Green Dam would immediately close the browser window denying the user access to both the browser and content.
Other content being requested resulted in POP UP screens announcing the content is “harmful” to web viewers.
It is also probable (although not confirmed) that when a user did try to use those sensitive phrases or access porn sites, that the attempt would be recorded and sent to authorities. This would be the equivalent of state-sponsored spyware being loaded on computers.
Within China many protests were threatened by activists demanding the government Ministry of Information and Information Technology rescind their order to install the software prior to the 1 July deadline. Even with the threat of potential civil disobedience, China also acknowledged that PC vendors and manufacturers would not have been ready to meet the deadline.
CNN reports that “had the government not delayed its controversial order that all computers be equipped with Green Dam by July 1, the result would have been the same — Chinese computer retailers were far from ready.” Manufacturers assembling and distributing computers in China include Dell, Lenovo, and Hewlett-Packard.
While the US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk have sent letters of protest to the Chinese government, as well as their counterparts from the European Union and other international trade groups, it is probably domestic pressure that led to the delay. Chinese groups all around the country promised to boycott, including rather prominent Chinese personalities such as Ai Wei, the artist who designed the famous “Bird’s Nest Stadium” for the Beijing Olympics.
Reuters reported Wei organized a “Green Dam Party” for Internet users to protest the software deadline by gathering a large group (~200) at a trendy café in Beijing. Wearing T-Shirts mocking the government program, protesters gathered to attend the rally – and were pleasantly surprised to find out they had already won the fight – or at least helped cause postponement of the deadline.
Baby steps. Learn more about Green Dam with a Google search – it is important to ensure we all understand both government attempts at censorship, as well as efforts to prevent censorship and freedom of information.
John Savageau, Long Beach