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'Green Dam' does its job jamming Internet content
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08:20, June 11, 2009

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Curiosity about a new filtering software almost killed the developer's website yesterday as hordes of netizens logged on to find out more about the program, which will soon be mandatory in all new computers sold on the mainland.

The "Green Dam" software is designed to block "websites with unhealthy content such as pornography and violence".

One Web user who installed the "Green Dam" yesterday discovered that as soon as the software was launched, searches and links to websites that contain pornography, violence and drug trafficking were blocked.

Web searches related to homosexuals were also disabled, though sensitive key word searches, including those considered politically sensitive, were still allowed while the software was operating, he said.

But access to some sensitive overseas websites were apparently suspended by the software and a pop-up message reminded readers of "Unhealthy information! Needs filtering!" before the browser automatically closed.

"Government power should not be abused and more transparency is needed," said Yu Guoming, a journalism expert with the Renmin University of China.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Tuesday announced that it had ordered all new computers to be pre-installed with the system starting July 1. The move comes with a price tag of 41.7 million yuan ($6.1 million).

In a poll by popular web portal Sina.com, more than 83 percent of 26,000 Web users were opposed to the software.

"The real purpose of a forced installation is still being questioned. It is important to emphasize that the government is keen to protect people's rights to information, civil participation, opinion and supervision," Chen Lidan, a senior researcher on journalism with the Renmin University of China, said yesterday during an online forum on People's Daily website.

Zhang Chenmin, general manager of Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Company, which developed the software, said yesterday only four categories were considered "unhealthy", namely pornography, violence, homosexuality and illegal activities including drug trafficking.

But Zhang declined to release his blacklist, saying it was a commercial secret.

He did say, however, the software does not block sensitive key words or IP addresses.

A dialog box during installation also claimed the product "cannot guarantee to filter all unhealthy information on the Internet, nor guarantee all information being filtered is completely unhealthy".

"The IT industry knows there is no reliable system to ensure all content is safe on the Web, but Web users have a choice to view what content they want to view," said Fang Xingdong, a Beijing-based IT expert.

Many Web users last night were still looking for ways to remove the "Green Dam".

Source: China Daily



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