China's 'Green Dam' Censorship Software Looks Pretty Damn Lame
The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece earlier this week entitled 'China Squeezes PC Makers' where they outlined the Chinese government's recent requirement that PC makers to ship their machines with internet filtering software. The Green Dam software (website here) will filter out explicit language and pornographic images, or at least that's what it was designed to do. Early user reports coming in seem to indicate that this software might not be as slick as many might have expected:
Here's what some users are saying according to ESWN:
- How much flesh color does it take to make something "pornography"? I went on the Internet to check out some animal photos. A lovely little naked pig was sent onto the black list. Pitiful little pig! I was curious, so I looked up some photos of naked African women. Oh, they were not censored!
- Today, a teacher posted an exam question which talks about "students playing
touch-ball game." The Word document was shut down.
- After we installed the software, many normal websites are banned. For example, it is normal for students to like games such as 4399, but not any more ... many news reports have certain normal words but they are banned.
Given this poor reception and PC makers' reluctance to play a part in censorship (I hope they're reluctant!) I don't foresee this Green Dam software being preinstalled on any retail PCs. My expectation is that at best, it would be bundled as a cd to be installed by the user. At that point it would be the user's responsibility to decide between a sluggish PC that hinders your Warcraft game, or a regular PC with a little less crap-ware installed. Would they want a boring boob-less internet or the real thing?
I know what my Chinese friends would choose.
UPDATE (June 14): Check out this video by Hal Roberts that shows exactly how awful this software is. If you visit falundafa.org, the software will shut down your browser. But then anytime you put 'F' into the address bar, it brings up falundafa.org in the autocomplete function which amazingly will also kill your browser! In other Green Dam news, WSJ is reporting that this filtering program contains stolen portions of a U.S. company's software. Nice one...
June 30 Update: The Washington Post is reporting that China "will postpone enforcement" of the Green Dam mandate. No reason has been provided by the government, but word on the street is that it's because the software sucks and is an annoying embarrassment to the nation. Duh... It's not exactly a smart PR move to be implement censorship these days, as it's natural for observers to draw comparisons to Iran, and China certainly doesn't want that.
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