Despite recently announced delays in China’s requirement to include Green Dam anti-pornography software on new PCs, the initiative is far from dead. PC makers who unanimously decried the hasty July 1st deadline managed to buy themselves an extension, but are still being told they to comply with the new requirements. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology re-affirmed its commitment to Green Dam Youth Escort on Thursday, and claims that it sees the software as being an important tool for protecting young people from pornography and violence on the internet. To further reinforce its commitment to total penetration, software publisher Jinhui has been told to write a Mac OSX version of the software, and it is currently in beta testing.
Critics of the Green Dam filtering software continue to question the motivation behind the initiative, and have accused the Ministry of using the software to further political repression. This may be a valid concern when you consider that the Ministry in charge of Green Dam’s implantation is also responsible for suppressing illegal political activity. The situation for the Chinese gets even worse when you consider that several industry tests have shown multiple security vulnerabilities in the filtering software, and it even appears to have a high occurrence of false positives in the filtering algorithm. The vulnerabilities are considered so serious in fact, that Sony is including a disclaimer with all new PCs.
Will Linux be the only safe haven for the Chinese?
The Chinese Health Ministry has been waging a very public war against pornography lately, and although they appeared to be softening their approach, new developments on Thursday have left Google scrambling. In what some people are calling “a rigged demo”, a CCTV state-owned television monopoly broadcast an interview demonstrating the dangers of the Google Suggested Search feature which attempts to auto complete simple search terms with popular related queries. At one point during the interview, when the host typed the word “son” into Google, a suggested search was returned stating, “abnormal relationship between son and mother”.
Google has formally commented on the matter, and has explained that the suggested search feature is based on popularity. In their defense, Google claims that nobody had entered this phrase for several months, but the term suddenly became popular in Beijing in the days leading up to the show. Though this is hardly conclusive evidence of a conspiracy, it certainly falls into the category of “suspicious” if true.Regardless, Google claims to be working on a new system that would help it remove all traces of pornography from its Chinese database, but describes it as “a major engineering effort”. "Google has been working to remove pornography from our search results in China, in accordance with our operating license there," the company said.
Google already filters a significant amount of political content from its search results, and critics fear that further censorship will only complicate the efforts of rights activists. It is also worth noting that the government agency charged with cracking down on pornography, is also responsible for suppressing illegal political activity. American officials have been critical of knee jerk restrictions on companies trying to comply with Chinas increasing demand for pornography censorship, and I’m sure we will hear more on this issue in the coming months.
What do you think of the ongoing developments in China?
The company has defended itself by claiming that it only furnished telecommunications equipment - freely deployed by Western democracies as well - that can only be used to intercept voice calls. It denies selling any internet technology to Iran. A spokesman for the company reassured everyone that Nokia Siemens holds its own code of conduct and international trade laws sacrosanct and acts in accordance with them.
What do Solid Oak Software's CyberSitter and China's Green Dam Youth Escort Internet filtering programs have in common? According to the BBC, the answer is CyberSitter code. The BBC reports that both Solid Oak's Brian Milburn and a report from the University of Michigan conclude that the developer of Green Dam Youth Escort, Computer System Engineering Inc, have incorporated code from CyberSitter into Green Dam - without a license.
According to the China Daily, Solid Oak is sending "cease and desist" letters to HP and Dell to stop shipping computers bundled with Green Dam, and may seek legal action against the developers. The legal-technical drama is being played out against the background of China's requirement that all new systems sold as of July 1 include Green Dam, as we reported last week.
What have the developers of Green Dam done that might help fend off legal action and improve their product's security? Join us after the jump.
The Chinese government is requiring all PC makers selling into the China market to bundle Green Dam Youth Escort web filtering software as of July 1, as we reported earlier this week. This software, already widely used in China's schools and elsewhere, has plenty of flaws, BBC News reports:
Unencrypted connections between client PCs and the company's servers, which could lead to information theft or the PCs being turned into botnet nodes for malware attacks
Filtering only Internet Explorer browsers, not Firefox
Support only for Microsoft Windows
Inaccurate web site blocking (pictures of pigs blocked, but not pictures of African women)
Potential privacy risks for users because the software logs all web pages the user attemps to access
Right now, it seems as if Green Dam Youth Escort is incapable of meeting its specified goals of "healthy development of the internet" and "effectively manag[ing] harmful material for the public and prevent it from being spread," while providing a terrific opportunity for malware providers. Have you encountered similar problems with web filtering software? Join us after the jump to sound off.
The Chinese government takes the threat of unfettered Internet access seriously. China's "Great Firewall" blocked access to reports about the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre last week. Although some users bypassed the blocks by using proxy servers, China's upped the ante: The Australianreports that China is requiring that all new PCs sold in China starting July 1st must include website blocking software developed in China.
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, with input from Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy. 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.
Green Dam-Youth Escort can be preinstalled on systems sold in China, or be bundled with systems sold there. Although the developer states that the software contains a password-based parental bypass feature and can be uninstalled, one wonders if China will allow web access if the software is not active. Will the biggest PC vendors in the Chinese market (second only to the US market in sales last year) push back against this requirement, or will July 1st see the "Great Firewall" become even harder to crack? Join us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
Starting Tuesday, the Chinese government shut down access to virtually all search engines and social networking sites, including Twitter, Flickr, Bing (Microsoft's new search engine), Live.com, Hotmail.com, Blogger, and others. All YouTube videos are also being blocked, as are BBC World News reports on the anniversary.
Are these actions unexpected? How can you bypass these types of blocks? Join us after the jump for more.
While it’s no secret that the Australian government is a fan of censoring and filtering the country’s Internet, they’re taking a bold new step this time. They’re planning to block BitTorrent completely.
The move comes from the Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy, who wrote in a blog post that he’s planning to oversee a trial if technology could filter data sent directly between computers as opposed to data downloaded from a central server. “Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial,” said Senator Conroy.
“I'm aware that this proposal has attracted significant debate and criticism – on this blog and at other places in the blogosphere,” Senator Conroy wrote. And how does he plan to follow that debate? “I'm following the debate at sites like Whirlpool and GetUp and on Twitter at #nocleanfeed.”
Wikipedia clearly is among the most innocuous websites and one can not imagine it being blocked by a child pornography filtering mechanism. However, the improbable has just occurred in the UK. The whole problem began when an image of a Scorpions album prompted Internet Watch Foundation’s Cleanfeed child pornography filtering system - used by many of the leading UK ISPs - to block the particular page.
Consequently, all traffic to Wikipedia from ISPs that deploy Cleanfeed beagn to be routed through transparent proxies – one proxy per ISP. Even if a single user is barred from editing by Wikipedia’s anti-vandalism system, all other users using the same proxy suffer exactly in the same fashion as most UK-based Wikipedia users are sharing a handful of IP addresses.
You can track the problem as it unfolds on this Wikipedia page dedicated to it. The IWF has stated on its website that the particular page was reported through its online reporting mechanism. After it was found unsuitable for minors, the page was “added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.”
Cry for Google, Argentina. The truth is, they never left you, but given the current legal battle over search results – they just might.
Dozens of fashion models and public figures, such as sports star Diego Maradona, are currently at war with Google over how search results are handed out. While the question as to whether or not certain search results should be censored if they contain a person’s name is answered, Argentine Judges have handed down orders to temporarily abbreviate search results.
These restraints mean that Google has to censor searches from Argentinean sites that contain the plaintiff’s names. Though, this does not apply to those of us in the United States.
Google has recently joined forces with Yahoo and other human rights groups to create the Global Network Initiative, a foundation for communications technology companies to follow in response to laws in various countries that might conflict with an Internet user’s privacy or freedom of expression. While the interest of this initiative is to provide the fullest Internet experience to everyone around the world, it is likely that they will do everything in their power to comply with local law.