While PC makers were told the software must be included with all PCs sold in China, the Chinese government is now saying Green Dam is “not compulsory,” according to AP
The Chinese government appears to be changing its stance on the “Green Dam Youth Escort” filtering software, according to the Associated Press.
AP has reported that, when reached by telephone, a member of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, who would not give his name, said the use of the Green Dam software was “not compulsory.”
On 19 May, the Ministry reportedly circulated a notice to PC makers, stating that by 1 July, all personal computers sold in the country must be shipped with a copy of the software, which it said was to enable young people to surf the Internet protected from explicit adult content.
The mandate immediately raised business concerns for PC makers such as HP, Dell and Lenovo, as well as privacy and human rights issues. Computer virus and security concerns were later added to the list.
U.S. technology advocacy groups, including the Information Technology Industry Council, urged China to reconsider and posted a public statement.
“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,” they wrote.
Early testing of the software by the University of Michigan’s Computer Science and Engineering Division found it to contain censoring script, which blocked access or caused the computer to crash when it came up on certain words, many of them related to Falun Gong or homosexuality.
Created by Chinese software maker Jinhui, whose owner said the software could easily be deleted, the Michigan researchers also found that the software maintained a log of the user’s activity, even after it was seemingly uninstalled.
Lastly, the researchers additionally found Green Dam to contain “serious security vulnerabilities,” which gave some hope that technological faults would give the Chinese government the ability to back away from the software, without losing face.
AP reports that China already has the world’s most extensive Web monitoring and censorship system, and that operators monitor Web pages and bulletin boards and delete content they feel is subversive.
AP estimates that approximately 40 million yuan, or $5.8 million (£3.5m), of taxpayers’ money has already been spent on the software, and that PC makers will be required to tell authorities how many computers have already shipped with the software.