Is Beijing really that serious about designing internet controls to block pornographic and violent websites from curious little eyes? Not if its latest effort is any indication. Jinhui, the designers of the increasingly infamous Green Dam Youth Escort (which has now been given its own ironic anime-style mascot), copied the code of an existing US system, creating a program so full of holes as to be laughable – or it would be, if it authorities were not so eager about implementing it.
Forget the problem of the program being platform-centric so that only Windows machines are forced
An analysis by the University of Michigan showed not only that Jinhui inserted "features" in the code to block political dissent as well as pornography, but that the program is also so full of security holes that few will willingly install it on their computers. Unfortunately, Beijing has also taken the step of requiring that the software be pre-installed come July 1 surprising made installing the program optional though it must be included with all new personal computers sold in the mainland. It’s also a Windows-based program, meaning all one has to do to avoid dealing with this software is just go and buy a Mac or a computer running a Linux operating system.
If Beijing – or even if Jinhui had – consulted an international computer consultancy it might have help to close those security holes so that people who chose to use the software weren’t at a disadvantage when they did so.
Sloppy design is bad enough, but as others have noted a bad public relations campaign and lack of public consultation is worse. Beijing’s role out of the program with less than a month’s warning has opened up a flood of opposition. Something international consultants would have told them can be solved with a little bit of market research and maybe a pilot program – something that Beijing seems to run before it implements any other major reform or new concept.
If Beijing had done so, there would probably still be some opposition from free-speech advocates, but overall people would probably not care – just the way most Chinese people don’t care much about the Great Firewall. Because hey, the idea of requiring anti-pornography software to be available to all computer users in China isn’t really a curtailing of rights, I am sure a lot of China’s computer users are parents that don’t want their children viewing online smut, but designing something that will harm their computers is.
Beijing and Jinhui need to go back to the drawing board and redesign something and then run it by an international consultant before they roll it out again. If they don’t the Green Dam will just burst and a lot of problems will flow through.