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The move will give the government unprecedented control over what can and cannot be seen on the internet. In recent weeks, China blocked access to a host of websites, including Hotmail and Twitter, and expressed worries that the internet was becoming a tool of protest.
An issue of the state-controlled magazine, Outlook Weekly, strongly criticised local officials for not paying more attention to the internet, saying that online debate forums in China are not just “ordinary chit chat in free time” but could also be stirring trouble…
The program, called Green Dam, is designed primarily to stop access to pornography, according to its makers, Jinhui Computer System Engineering company. “From July 1, every PC will be shipped with the software before it is sold to customers,” said a member of the company’s marketing department, who identified herself only as Miss Zhou.
“This is very good news for users, so they should not uninstall it. It will automatically filter pornographic images and antirevolutionary content. It will not take up much space on the hard drive. It is very stable and we have conducted many tests already,” she added.
A second program, called Youth Escort, filters out rude or subversive words.
If the two programs are installed, they can allegedly transmit personal information and make it difficult for users to tell what access is being denied.
Under the terms of the new rules, manufacturers can also ship the programme on a separate disc, but have to report how many units have been sold together with Green Dam.
Yes, this reminds me of what some governments in the West are also trying to make official policy – and meeting stern resistance from the geek community and anyone who espouses a constitutional view of civil liberties.
Of course, you needn’t wear a tinfoil hat to believe the tale that some software producers already collaborate with the FBI and CIA and provide a backdoor for spying on ordinary citizens. After all, most of our Telcos and Internet providers have already been proven to roll over for the Feds – and Congress passed laws protecting them from lawsuits over such an invasion of privacy.
China just appears to be barging ahead in a manner suited to their administrative style. We’re more democratic in the West. Our government allows discussion – before they screw us, anyway.