Green Dam is content-control software developed in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Under a directive from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of the PRC taking effect on July 1st 2009, it is mandatory to have either the software, or its setup files pre-installed on, or shipped on a compact disc with, all personal computers sold in Mainland China, including those imported from abroad. The government says the filtering software, called “Green Dam-Youth Escort,” is aimed at blocking pornography and other content inappropriate for children. But industry officials fear it will also be used to block political content – exposing them to accusations of abetting censorship – and that the software contains security and technical flaws. Green Dam automatically downloads the latest updates of a list of prohibited sites from an online database, and also collects private user data. Update: Looks like Green Dam is getting delayed.
Sony has already embraced this mandatory software by having the software installed in VAIO computers destined for China well in advance of the mandate, but is disclaiming responsibility for any damage caused by the Web filtering software. We’re not blasting them for having this software – Sony has to so they can continue to sell computers in the country, but it sure is a major step backwards for freedom of information. How can young Chinese children, aspiring for worldly knowledge, know about democracy, or the tragedy of Tienanmen Square?
A photo of a Sony document disclaiming the authenticity, legality, and functionality of Green Dam has been posted online at RConversation, a blog maintained by Rebecca MacKinnon, assistant professor at the Journalism & Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong. The picture was originally posted via TwitPic by a Chinese blogger in Hangzhou, China, who found the notice in a box with a new Sony Vaio computer.