Redemption of the Green Dam
The usually obedient Chinese netizens are infuriated these days and it is all because of a previously little-known and weirdly-named software called Green Dam Youth Escort.
The software itself is not that very complicated. It works basically as firewall that filters Internet pornography and violent content, just like Symantec Norton, Kaspersky, McAfee and many other anti-virus and Internet security software do.
What makes into a lighting rod is the way the software will be distributed. From July 1st, every new computer sold in mainland China will be packaged with this software. Government will foot the bill, which amounts to $6 million.
Like always, the news was first broken not by domestic news media but the international one. After this story appeared in Monday’s “Wall Street Journal,” the Chinese blogosphere quickly followed suit and staged a public crusade against this software. Rumors about why this specific software was chosen and who was behind this decision were transmitted by Twitter and social networking websites. Even the “People’s Daily,” the official paper of the Communist Party, ran a special section questioning this decision on its website.
Until now, this whole Green Dam episode has been a typical Chinese Internet fiesta. First, news about a controversial issue is broken. Then, discussion about this issue, both pro and con, spreads like an epidemic on the Internet and everybody wants to grab the microphone and have their own say. In the end, they become bored and move on. The initial question that triggered the storm slips away without careful examination. Distrust, misunderstanding and animosity goes unsolved and lays the ground for the next and even worse and damaging exchange. So goes this Green Dam thing.
The basic concept behind the decision of implementing this software is that Chinese youth need protection when they surf the net, just like youth in other countries. Unlike the U.S. and other countries, China doesn’t have a content-rating system that prevents youth from the exposure of pornographic and violent content. The situation becomes worse on the Internet, where major news portal websites contain lewd sexual innuendoes. Keep one thing in mind: 36 percent of China’s 298 million Internet users are below the age of 19. Parents should be worried, government should be worried and the whole society should be worried.
The software will not be forcefully installed on very new computer but pre-installed that require your further clicking and confirming to install it on your computer. You could simply delete the installer file. Pre-installed or even installed software is a common practice in selling new computers.Very often, without your consent, computer manufacturers pre-install a software package onto the new computer and hope you will buy the software after a few months’ trial. I had a six-month free trial of Norton AntiVirus when I bought my Samsung laptop.
Of course, the government has a lot of explaining to do to ease people’s worries of personal information leakage and privacy intrusion. Also, it has to ensure the public that software will not be used for other motives.
And the bottom line? It should not be worse than Microsoft Windows which allows spyware, worm, Trojan horse and other forms of viruses to bloom. And, it is installed, not pre-installed, when you get your new computer.
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