Chinese officials have announced that beginning on July 1, all computers sold there must include government-designed software that blocks pornography.
OK fine, but a few Internet savants smelled a rat and set out to test the so-called Green Dam-Youth Escort software.
Their conclusion: Green Dam also censors religious and anti-government Web sites, disables programs after people input certain words, monitors personal communications, and tracks the Internet explorations of Chinese citizens, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Krovitz.
China is in effect asking computer makers to help block access to information and punish citizens if they visit unsavory sites or express themselves freely online.
Green Dam, dubbed derisively by its own citizens as the “Great Firewall of China,” has also been found to close computer applications without warning and create serious security problems.
So far Dell, HP, Apple and Lenovo—whose biggest shareholder is China’s government—have tread lightly around the subject, allowing their trade associations to gently press the matter with Beijing.
But now, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke have begun quietly pressuring China to shelve the program altogether. They claim the program may violate commitments that China made to the World Trade Organization.
In letters to 2 Chinese ministries yesterday, the US officials said, “China is putting companies at an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications and network security issues.”
The letters encouraged China to seek ways to promote parental control without restricting freedom to roam the Internet, freedom of expression and the free flow of information, according to the Washington Post.