China Faces Criticism Over New Software Censor

After the Chinese government announced that all new computers would be required to have pre-installed filtering dubbed the , whose main purpose is supposed to block “unhealthy” content like pornography, China is getting resistance from citizens and software makers, like Microsoft. From the New York Times:

Industry executives, free-speech advocates and many computer users have reacted angrily to the new mandate, which gives manufacturers until July 1 to preinstall the software on millions of new machines.

“The compulsory installation of filtering software is a whole lot of useless flopping about,” said an editorial in The Wuhan Evening News.

Computer makers in the United States say it will be impossible to fulfill the requirement by the end of the month and have asked the Chinese government to reconsider the directive. They say it raises thorny questions about censorship and whether manufacturers will be liable if the software — designed by a company with ties to China’s military and public security agencies — conflicts with operating systems or causes computers to crash.

“To be honest, nobody really knows what this software is capable of,” said one executive at an American computer maker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his company was still trying to work with the government on the issue. Computer experts fear that it could allow the government to monitor Internet use and collect personal information.

Also from the Wall Street Journal:

In a statement Tuesday, four U.S. technology-industry associations urged the Chinese government to “reconsider implementing its new mandatory filtering software requirement.”

“We believe there should be an open and healthy dialogue on how parental control software can be offered in the market in ways that ensure privacy, system reliability, freedom of expression, the free flow of information, security and user choice,” said the statement, released by the Information Technology Industry Council, the Software & Information Industry Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association and TechAmerica.

Concern in China also has grown. A commentary Wednesday in China Youth Daily, a major state-run newspaper, argued that information about the government’s deal with the two companies that created Green Dam should be made public, and questioned the ministry’s right to issue a regulation that is “forced into the public’s private life.”

Moreover, the BBC News reports a possible risk with the new software:

“We found a series of software flaws,” explained Isaac Mao, a blogger and social entrepreneur in China, as well as a research fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

For example, he said, tests had shown that communications between the software and the servers at the company that developed the program were unencrypted.

Mr Mao told BBC News that this could allow hackers to “steal people’s private information” or “place malicious script” on computers in the network to “affect [a] large scale disaster.”

For example, a hacker could use malicious code to take control of PCs using the software.

Also from People’s Daily:

Zhang Chenmin, general manager of Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Company, which developed the software, said yesterday only four categories were considered “unhealthy”, namely pornography, violence, homosexuality and illegal activities including drug trafficking.

But Zhang declined to release his blacklist, saying it was a commercial secret.

He did say, however, the software does not block sensitive key words or IP addresses.

A dialog box during installation also claimed the product “cannot guarantee to filter all unhealthy information on the Internet, nor guarantee all information being filtered is completely unhealthy”.

 

chinaSMACK also has translated some netizens’ reactions.

See more stories about the Green Dam on CDT.