Monday, June 15, 2009

Damning the Dam

There's a lot of criticism within China about the upcoming Green
Dam-Youth Escort software that is required to be installed in all new
personal computers from July 1.

Many of the complaints are technical -- initial tests from the
University of Michigan show the unsophisticated filtering system would
be very easy for hackers to get into -- and even possibly hijack the
government's directives by stealing data or implanting viruses.

Others are annoyed the government is trying to clamp down further on
what people and see and read on the Internet. Surveys by four of
China's top online outlets say four out of five people would not use
the software or have it uninstalled.

Tests have shown the software doesn't just block pornography, as the
government claimed was the main intention -- but also politically
sensitive material, or anything that vaguely sounds bad. Even the
colour yellow, which is a nickname for porn, was filtered out.

Online, people are making fun of Green Dam, and the latest are anime
cartoons of Green Dam Girl (绿坝娘) dressed in a green army uniform and
carrying a stuffed rabbit, meant to be the logo of Jinhui. She also
carries a bucket of soy sauce to wipe out filth.

However, the government is still pressing on with the directive,
ordering the software designer, Jinhui Computer System Engineering, to
patch up the system to avoid bugs.

But with less than two weeks to go, will the software be ready by then?

Then there are claims by Solid Oak Software based in California that
part of its code to filter out pornography or material deemed violent
was stolen by Jinhui.

"I cannot deny that the two filters' databases of blacklisted URL
addresses might share similarities," Zhang Chenmin, general manager of
Jinhui was quoted as saying in China Daily. "After all, they are all
well-known international pornographic Web sites that all porn filters
are meant to block. But we didn't steal their programming code."

As Jinhui is under fire at all levels -- government, public and other
industry experts, it has a lot to prove in the next two weeks.

But the assault on Green Dam will not stop until it is indefinitely
postponed or canceled.

What's interesting is that no one has said this directive has hurt the
feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese people...

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