Green Dam postponed

Chinese government has postponed its mandate that manufacturers embed Web-filtering software in all new PCs sold in the China, in the wake of intense opposition inside and outside China.

The Chinese government has said the purpose of implementing the Web-filtering software is to prevent youngsters from viewing online pornography and other “harmful content,” and it insists that the software “definitely has no capability for collecting users’ information or monitoring their Internet behavior.” In China, “green” is a term used for online content free from pornography and other illicit material.

The Xinhua news agency quoted a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology representative as saying that some PC makers claimed they did not have sufficient time to meet the July 1 deadline, in which case a delay was permissible.

Isaac Mao with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society says the Chinese initiative “has lost legitimacy” and that the government’s enforcement of the rule would be impossible. There also are indications that the plan has broadened public interest in China regarding questions about government inquisitiveness and censorship.

Some critics said the plan appeared to be aimed at extending the government’s massive Internet censorship into people’s homes and offices, and others worried it could expose PCs to hackers or cause technical problems. Researchers who studied the software found evidence that it blocked a range of content including sites covering sensitive political issues.

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Green Dam Filter SW

China’s Green Dam: filter SW required on each new PC

A recent directive by the Chinese government requires the installation of a specific filtering software product, Green Dam, with the publicly stated intent of protecting children from harmful Internet content.

But what buyers don’t know: the filtering options also include blocking of political and religious content normally associated with the Great Firewall of China, China’s national-level filtering system. If implemented as proposed, the effect would be to increase the reach of Internet censorship to the edges of the network, adding a new and powerful control mechanism to the existing filtering system.

The Open Net Initiative by the Universities of Harvard, Toronto, Cambridge and Oxford did an intensive review on this blocking software, these are the findings:

Green Dam exerts unprecedented control over users’ computing experience
It blocks access to a wide range of web sites based on keywords and image processing, including porn, gaming, gay content, religious sites and political themes, it actively monitors individual computer behavior, such that a wide range of programs including word processing and email can be suddenly terminated if content algorithm detects inappropriate speech.

The functionality of Green Dam goes far beyond that which is needed to protect children online and subjects users to security risks
Log files are currently recorded locally on the machine, including events and keywords that trigger filtering. The auto-update feature can used to change the scope and targeting of filtering without any notification to users.

The effective level of parental control over the software is poor
A combination of poor implementation and opaque design makes it very difficult for even expert users to understand what the system is doing by default, let alone understand the impact and scope of auto-updates and configuration changes. These factors severely erode any arguments over parental choice.

Mandating the use of a specific software product is a questionable policy decision
Introducing a product standard by mandating the use of a particular software product made by a specific company for individual use at a national level is unprecedented. A product mandate provides a strong measure of central control at the cost of consumer choice, security, and product quality, with implications for personal computer performance.  The effects of this product are magnified by the fact that the product and company in question are reported to have little or no experience in the development, testing, deployment, or support of a very widely used software product.

There is broad support around the world for policies that help parents to limit the exposure of their children to harmful materials online. This support varies widely, however, in relation to the share of responsibility and choice between governments, technology companies and parents. Many favor leaving control solely in the hands of parents, while others support government policies that mandate large-scale filtering. This legitimate debate has been superseded in China by a government mandate for new computers to be shipped with filtering software that is overly broad and excessively intrusive. Requiring the installation of a specific product provides no apparent benefits for protecting children, suggesting that it might be intended to extend the regulatory reach of government authorities into personal computers.

Source (with more footage and links):

opennet.net China’s Green Dam

Links

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/06/china-is-not-a-kindergarten/

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/green-dam/

Great Firewall of China