Green Dam enforcement watered down

China's Web filtering efforts face more hurdles as school administrations and Internet cafes are without, or have uninstalled content sifting software.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

The Chinese government's Green Dam-Youth Escort content filtering initiative, where the software was to be installed in public schools and Internet cafes, is facing some hurdles as target organizations are without, or have uninstalled the software.

Initially required for all PCs, the Chinese government later revised its mandate in August and effectively lifted the burden on PC makers to package the content filtering software in computers before they can be sold to consumers and businesses. However, the Green Dam software is still required to be installed in PCs used in schools and public places, including Internet cafes.

First announced in June, the mandate was due to go into effect Jul. 1 but the Chinese government on Jun. 30 said it would be delayed.

Green Dam had been shrouded in controversies since it first made news. A security company claimed the software had unsafe programming practices and could lead to compromised systems. In addition, Calif.-based software company Solid Oak Software said Green Dam developers had copied nearly 3,000 lines of code from its CyberSitter Internet content filtering program. Solid Oak also filed a lawsuit against ZDNet China and the site's parent CBS Interactive for allowing users to download the Green Dam software from the ZDNet China site.

Following the revision in mandate, PC makers that had previously complied with the Chinese government's instructions, have stopped shipping new PCs with Green Dam.

In an e-mail to ZDNet Asia, a spokesperson for Lenovo confirmed it no longer pre-installs the software in its computers. However, she said the company would provide the software upon request.

IDG News Service reported last month that Acer and Sony have also stopped the practice.

Enforcement still uncertain
Despite the requirement for schools and public places to install Green Dam on their PCs, at least one high school in Beijing had decided to uninstall the software, according to Reuters.

The software was removed as it was incompatible with programs the school used for teaching and administrative purposes, according to the report.

Jeremy Goldkorn, founder and editor-in-chief of danwei.org, a site focused on media, advertising and urban life in China, said a recent check on some cybercafés in Beijing indicated the absence of the content filter.

"One of my colleagues visited several Internet cafes in Beijing over the past week and found that none of them had installed Green Dam or any other new censorship software on their computers," Goldkorn told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. "However, they are strictly enforcing registration [where] all users have to present and log in with their ID cards."

He said Green Dam "was just one of many tools" the Chinese government can tap to control Web content. "Green Dam itself may disappear, but the government's intention to continue controlling the Internet does not seem to be changing," he noted.

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