China plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites.
The government, which has told global PC makers of the requirement, says the effort is aimed at protecting young people from ‘harmful’ content. The primary target is pornography, says the main developer of the software, a company that has ties to China’s security ministry and military.
The Chinese government has a history of censoring a broad range of Web content. The new requirement could force PC manufacturers to choose between refusing a government order in a major market or opening themselves to charges of abetting censorship.
The software needn’t be preinstalled on each new PC — it may instead be shipped on a compact disc — giving users some choice.
Note that Microsoft uses the same tactic with its software which checks all the other software on your computer and reports it back to Microsoft. There is a difference but it is one of degree rather than intent.
The software’s Chinese name is ‘Green Dam — Youth Escort.’ The word ‘green’ in Chinese is used to describe Web-surfing free from pornography and other illicit content. Green Dam would link PCs with a regularly updated database of banned sites and block access to those addresses.
Wall Street Journal Online reprots that the Web site of Dazheng, a software company involved in developing Green Dam, says the company works with the Armored Engineering Institute of the People’s Liberation Army, and that it helped the PLA in 2005 produce a system to intercept ‘confidential’ documents.
Wang Jingcheng, deputy general manager of Dazheng, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has ‘strict regulations and forbids all software companies from collecting any personal information.’ He added that the software will block content ‘according to the law.’