China Backs Down over Controversial Censorship Software

The Guardian reports that the government is loosening requirements that all computers produced in or imported to China must have keyword filtering software installed on their hard drives, following concerns over a host of technical, legal, and other problems:

The Green Dam Youth Escort program, which restricts access to pornography and politically sensitive websites, was due to be compulsorily incorporated in the hard drives of all new machines sold after 1 July, but the state-run media announced today that it would instead be an optional package.

The softening of tone appears designed to head off a wave of criticism about the program, which has brought the government culture of information control into an unusually harsh domestic spotlight.

But it is unlikely to allay suspicions about the developer, Jinhui – a military-backed software firm – and about Green Dam, which tightens government control of the internet at the level of individual computers.

Secret documents published online and investigations by hackers have revealed an embedded blacklist of politically sensitive words in the program, a hole in the system that potentially allows remote users to take control of an individual’s computer and a defective pornography algorithm.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a group of 19 trade organizations representing tech companies wrote a letter to the Chinese government, stating that the plan for the Green Dam software, “raises significant questions of security, privacy, system reliability, the free flow of information and user choice.”

June 17, 2009 6:16 PM
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