While it's no secret that China blocks web sites that it doesn't want its citizens to view, the Wall Street Journal
is reporting an escalation in this censorship. The WSJ reports that China plans to require that all PCs sold in the country as of July 1st be equipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites.
The software's Chinese name is "Green Dam-Youth Escort." The software was developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co. Additional input came from Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co.
According to Bryan Zhang, founder of Jinhui, Green Dam operates in a way similar to such products as Net Nanny, that allow parental blocking of sites. Green Dam would use a regularly updated database of banned sites, possibly downloaded to the PC like an antivirus update, and block access to those web sites addresses.
The WSJ notes that PC makers have been informed of the new requirement but China has not yet publicly announced the change. The notice of the change, made on May 19th, 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."
While being advertised as primarily preventing access to pornography, the software will perform just as the "Great Firewall of China" does, blocking access to Web sites that might contain material critical of the Chinese government.
Interestingly, the software will not have to be pre-installed on the PC, but could be shipped on a separate CD. There would also be no restrictions on removing the software, according to Jinhui. There was also reportedly no mention made of any punitive measures taken against a PC maker that did not comply.
As such, it seems hard to understand of what use the software would be, as it need not be installed and can be uninstalled. It could, however, be the beginning of a spiral towards something else in the future.