Sunday, June 7, 2009

Self-Censoring Computers

The regulation of Chinese internet users is set for a major overhaul this summer.

From The Wall St. Journal:

Image from The Guardian

BEIJING -- China plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites, a move that could give government censors unprecedented control over how Chinese users access the Internet.

The government, which has told global PC makers of the requirement but has yet to announce it to the public, says the effort is aimed at protecting young people from "harmful" content. The primary target is pornography, says the main developer of the software, a company that has ties to China's security ministry and military.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology didn't respond to requests for comment.

The Chinese government has a history of censoring a broad range of Web content. The new requirement could force PC manufacturers to choose between refusing a government order in a major market or opening themselves to charges of abetting censorship.


The software's Chinese name is "Green Dam-Youth Escort." The word "green" in Chinese is used to describe Web-surfing free from pornography and other illicit content. Green Dam would link PCs with a regularly updated database of banned sites and block access to those addresses, according to an official who tested the product for a government agency.

The May 19 Chinese government notice about the requirement says it is aimed at "constructing a green, healthy, and harmonious Internet environment, and preventing harmful information on the Internet from influencing and poisoning young people."

Read On
A few years ago, Google had to compromise it's "Don't be evil" motto for the sake of making its search engine available to Chinese people. Now it appears that companies like HP, Dell, and other hardware makers are now going to have make the tough call of how to deal with these new requirements.

The Net Nanny or The Great Firewall or whatever you want to call China's online censorship program appears to be as paranoid as ever right now. This blog, and every other Blogger/Blogspot-hosted blog, is blocked. Twitter is blocked. Youtube is blocked. Flickr is blocked. Some of these sites can be accessed via proxy server while others can't.

And in addition to these recent website clamp-downs, there also appears to be a visa crackdown for foreigners in effect.

I've heard a few explanations for these recent changes in policy. There was that anniversary last week. That makes sense to me. I'm also hearing that there is a lot of concern about the 60th anniversary of the The People's Republic of China this coming October 1st. That one doesn't make as much sense to me. But I have a couple friends who can only get their visas sorted out through September, and not October, for no apparent reason. So there might be something to that. I really don't know.

I reckon the financial crisis and the general malaise of the world's economy (including China's in its own way) can't be helping the free flow of information and people.

All of these developments are concerning to me.


pug ster said...

Maybe they should give this free as a disguise this as a free antivirus/malware software.

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