Chinese censorship up, but Green Dam software fails
The project team developing the software for the Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy has shut down for lack of funds, the Beijing Times reported. The same thing is going to happen soon to Zhengzhou Jinhui Computer System Engineering in Henan.
A year ago, on 1 July, a government rule had come into effect whereby all computers sold in China had to include this pre-installed software that would filter sites with pornographic or violent content. Critics however noted that “politically sensitive” sites were also included in the government’s blacklist, like those speaking about the Tiananmen Square massacre, Taiwan and the Dalai Lama.
However, the software was also criticised for its own failures, namely its inability to recognise porno sites and the ease with which it allowed hackers to steal data and send unwanted messages.
The controversy over the software forced Industry and Information Technology Minister Li Yizhong to back down in August last year, saying computer makers and retailers were no longer obliged to ship the software with new computers for home or business use. However, 20 million computers used in schools, cybercafés and other public places had already been sold with the software incorporated.
Despite the Green Dam fiasco, Beijing has not given up on censoring “politically sensitive” websites and microblogs.
Google has recently had its licence renewed by Chinese authorities, accepting all of their censorship measures.
Meanwhile, social networks like Twitter, Facebook or Youtube are still blocked in the mainland. This week Netease, QQ, Sina, Tencent and the Chinese version of Twitter were blocked for “maintenance”.
For Ye Du, one of China’s foremost blogger, the authorities are having a hard time managing the huge volume of internet traffic generated by 420 million Chinese users. Hence, they shut down sites temporarily to increase controls and slow down the flow of information.
For example, they removed dozens of articles posted to a blog by rights lawyer Li Tiantian, because he published a photo of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
They also moved in on the blogs of two other prominent rights lawyers. Liu Xiaoyuan's blog was closed, with hundreds of articles removed overnight, whilst Teng Biao's blogs were also closed down because of two or three posts on the subject of citizens' rights and social transformation.