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China Pulls “Unsafe” Green Dam Internet Filter

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

The Chinese Government’s plan to require Green Dam Internet filtering software on all new PCs has been delayed indefinitely

China has suddenly cancelled a controversial plan to require Internet filtering software on all new computers sold in the country – which was due to start today.

The “Green Dam Youth Escort” filtering software was to have been mandatory on all new PCs, but has now been delayed indefinitely, amid complaints from Chinese citizens, foreign governments, and from security experts who say the software would have been a danger to users. No data has been given for its re-introduction, so most observers expect the plan to fade away.

Officially the Green Dam was intended to stamp out Internet pornography, however it was widely expected to also be used for government censorship. It was also poorly-written software, which would also open up vulnerabilities that could be used by criminals – or governments – to install malicious code and create botnets, according to security experts at the University of Michigan, who analysed the software.

Green Dam, produced by the Jinhui Computer System Engineering Company, would also have blocked references to Falun Gong, a form of exercise and meditation banned by the Chinese Government. Other restrictions led to criticism from the US and elsewhere that it would have restricted trade and free expression – possibly breaking international rules. The US-based Information Technology Industry Council, and PC vendors had urged China to withdraw the software.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing said the proposal posed “significant questions in relation to security, privacy, system reliability, the free flow of information and user choice.” Chinese bloggers and Internet users also protested loudly.

In their turn, government officials, and Jinhui executives had said that Green Dam was not compulsory and could be closed down, but it appeared to leave log files of users’ activity, according to researchers.

In the end, the backlash killed the idea. “Some businesses pointed out the heavy amount of work, time pressures and lack of preparation,” an unnamed Ministry official said in a statement on its site, according to Reuters. “The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will further solicit opinions from all sides, improve the plan, upgrade methods and carry out related tasks,” said the official.

The US embassy in Beijing welcomed the move, as did Internet users in China, Reuters reported. However, China has 300 million Internet users, and a government which would like to control their activities. It is already working on other ways to limit activity, such as talking to Google.

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