On June 8, the New York Times reported that China “issued a sweeping directive requiring all personal computers sold in the country to include sophisticated software that can filter out pornography and other ‘unhealthy information’ from the Internet”.
This new software called “Green Dam Youth Escort” has been developed by Jinhui, a company with close relations to China’s security ministry and military — making the prospect of abuse all the more worrisome.
The announcement of the software mandate, scheduled to be in place by July 1, has caused a great stir in China and abroad. According to Reuters, “a Chinese lawyer has demanded a public hearing” on the “lawfulness and reasonableness” of the mandate, also noting that the plan “lacks a legal basis.” Other community leaders are even “preparing a mass petition to mobilize opposition to the software”.
Experts out of of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society warn the software contains a “series of software flaws“. Research fellow Isaac Mao explained to BBC that the program could allow hackers to “steal people’s private information” or “place malicious script” on computers to “affect [a] large scale disaster.”
The real test to the mandate’s strength, however, will be whether the computer industry acts on the regulation. After all, Chinese internet users have long sustained the annoyance of Big Brother and his Great Fire Wall. But with China being the second largest market for PCs only behind the U.S., it’s hard to which way commerce will swing. The New York Times notes that “this is not the first time that foreign companies have been enlisted in government efforts to police the Internet. Google already removes politically forbidden results yielded by its popular search engine, Microsoft allows censors to block content on its blog service, and Yahoo was widely criticized for turning over information that was used to jail a journalist.”
To see the original government mandate, click on the attachment below - (thanks to Rebecca MacKinnon!):