I ain't like that no more. I'm a changed man. You were right, I was wrong. We got a family here, I'm gonna start acting responsibly. So let's go, Honey. (sound of shotgun being cocked) Let's go get Nathan Junior!

Your position:Home->china news-> China plans to require all personal computers shipped softwre Green Dam-Youth Escort
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, a move that could give government censors unprecedented control over how Chinese users access the Internet.

The government, which has told international PC makers of the requirement but has yet to publicly announce it, says the effort is aimed at protecting young people from 'harmful' content.

The rule could force PC manufacturers to choose between refusing a government order in a major market or opening themselves to charges of abetting censorship. Several foreign companies have been criticized for accomodating the Chinese government's censorship requirements in order to operate in the country.

The Chinese government's history of censoring a broad range of Web content has raised concern among some foreign industry officials and the U.S. government that the new effort could significantly increase the government's control over Chinese Internet access. Industry executives also warn that the software could cause PCs in China to malfunction, and could make them more vulnerable to hacking.

'We are studying the new rule to assess its impact,' said Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. 'We would view any attempt to restrict the free flow of information with great concern and as incompatible with China's aspirations to build a modern, information-based economy and society.'

The new software would link PCs with an updated database of banned sites and block access to those addresses, according to an official who tested the product for a government agency.

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.

The software was developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., with input from Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co. Both companies have ties to China's military and its security ministry. Jinhui says Green Dam operates similarly to software in other countries designed to let parents block access to Web content inappropriate for children.

Foreign industry officials who have examined Green Dam say that personal information could be transmitted through the software and that it will be difficult for users to tell what exactly is being blocked.

Bryan Zhang, founder of Jinhui, the software developer, said his company plans to transmit new banned addresses to users' PCs through an Internet update system similar to that used by operating-system software and antivirus programs.

Mr. Zhang said his company now compiles and maintains the list of blocked sites, which he says is currently limited to pornography sites. But the software makes it possible to restrict other sites.

The rule was outlined in a notice that was issued by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on May 19 but that hasn't yet been reported. The notice, a copy of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal, says PC makers must ship PCs to be sold in China as of July 1 with the Green Dam software 'preloaded.'

The notice says the software must either be preinstalled on the hard drive or enclosed on a compact disc. It says PC producers will be required to report to the government how many PCs they have shipped with the software.

It is unclear how the Chinese government might enforce the new rule.

Although the notice doesn't mention any punitive action, fear of consequences if PC makers don't comply could be enough to ensure their compliance.

Sales of PCs in China neared 40 million units last year, second only to the U.S. Manufacturers have more than just market share at stake if they don't comply: major PC companies also have invested in China, with factories and research facilities.

Chinese company Lenovo Group Ltd. had the largest market share, with 26.7% of units shipped in the first three months of 2009, while Hewlett-Packard Co. had 13.7% and Dell Inc. had 8.1%, according to research firm IDC.

A spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard, the world's biggest PC vendor by shipments, said the company is 'working with the government authorities and evaluating the best way to approach this. Obviously we will focus on delivering the best customer experience while ensuring that we meet necessary regulatory requirements.'

Spokesmen for other major PC vendors including Dell, Acer, and Lenovo, said they were unaware of the requirement or didn't respond to requests for comment on the software.

Foreign industry officials say companies have been given little time to properly test Green Dam. 'The lack of transparency, the shortness of time for implementation, and the incredible scope of the requirement that is not matched anywhere around the world present tremendous challenges to the industry,' said an industry official who has discussed the plans with several major PC makers.

China already operates an extensive Internet filtering system, commonly called the Great Firewall, which experts have called the most sophisticated of its kind. It blocks access to a range of content, from pornography to politically sensitive sites. Such sites have included those promoting Tibetan independence; the spiritual group Falun Gong; and in specific circumstances blocking access to foreign media.

But that system blocks content at the network level, and many users circumvent it through tools like proxy servers. The new plan, by extending filtering to individual PCs, could give the government a way to tighten its controls, say foreign industry officials who have examined the software.

'Nobody knows exactly what the scope is of the functionality of this software,' says a foreign industry official familiar with the plan. 'I don't think anyone would oppose the [government's] stated objective' of blocking pornographic and violent content, 'but people are really concerned about the way it's being implemented,' he said.

Having one universal application that opens a link into every computer could also make those computers more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Moreover, Green Dam, which is designed to work with Microsoft's Windows operating system, could also conflict with other applications, causing glitches or even system crashes, industry officials said.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology didn't respond to requests for comment. Wu Weiwei, an official from the government's China Software Testing Center who oversaw testing of the software, said extensive tests of the software have shown no problems.

The government notice about the requirement says it is aimed at 'constructing a green, healthy, and harmonious Internet environment, and preventing harmful information on the Internet from influencing and poisoning young people.'

The notice says the government has paid for the rights for all Chinese PC users to use the software for a year.

Mr. Zhang, the Jinhui executive, said his company's products are similar to parental-control software sold in the U.S.

Mr. Zhang said the Green Dam software can be turned off if parents want to access blocked sites, and that the program can be uninstalled. Users who want to remove it need a password that they set when the software is installed, a precaution he said is aimed at preventing children from disabling the software.

Jinhui's Web site said it has a long-term 'strategic cooperative partnership' with a research institute of the Ministry of Public Security on image-recognition technology, as well as long-term 'technical cooperation' with the People's Liberation Army's Information Engineering University.

Dazheng's Web site says it cooperates with the Armored Engineering Institute of the PLA, and that it helped the PLA in 2005 produce a system to intercept 'confidential' documents.

Mr. Zhang said Jinhui has only worked with the Ministry of Public Security on issues concerning pornography. Dazheng didn't comment directly on the company's ties with the government.

Loretta Chao
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