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UPDATED: June 21, 2009 NO. 25 JUNE 25, 2009
A Green Storm On the Internet
Computer filtering software stirs controversy

CHILDREN BEHIND THE DAM: In Weifang City, Shandong Province, primary school computers have already been installed with the new filtering software Green Dam Youth Escort (CFP)

Beginning July 1, all computers sold in China will come with filtering software either pre-installed on the system or on a compact disc that comes with it, according to a notice issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on May 19.

The new software, called Green Dam Youth Escort, will be able to filter out harmful information from the Internet. The purpose of including it, according to the MIIT, is to build a healthy and harmonious online environment that protects young minds from being poisoned by harmful information.

BANNED CAT: This picture of cartoon cat Garfield toys could be blocked by the new Internet filter software Green Dam Youth Escort because of its yellow color (CFP)

In 2008, the MIIT implemented a community-oriented, green and open Internet filtering software project with the support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance. After MIIT negotiated with software suppliers and 50 Web portals, trials commenced in October 2008 in the four cities of Henan Province's Zhengzhou, Jiangsu Province's Nanjing, Gansu Province's Lanzhou and Shaanxi Province's Xi'an, and then proceeded to 10 more cities. Chinese personal computer (PC) vendors Founder, Lenovo, Tongfang and Great Wall all participated in the trial installations.

The Green Dam Youth Escort program, whose creator claimed had been downloaded more than 3 million times and installed on nearly 518,000 computers, won the government contract during a public bidding process in May 2009.

Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co. Ltd., which worked out the program's picture filtering abilities, and Beijing-based Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co. Ltd., which added word-filtering capabilities, jointly developed the software. Green Dam blocks online pornographic and violent content, keeps a record of users' surfing histories, controls the time a user can surf the Internet and can forbid playing Web games.

The government spent 41.7 million yuan ($6.1 million) of financial capital to purchase one-year exclusive rights to use the software and for maintenance and updates, offering all Chinese free use of the program for a year.

A separate notice on the ministry's website required schools to install the software on every computer by the end of May.

"As there is much harmful information on the Internet that has negative effects on the growth of juveniles, it is necessary to build such a dam," an MIIT official told Xinhua News Agency on condition of anonymity.

BANNED CAT: This picture of cartoon cat Garfield toys could be blocked by the new Internet filter software Green Dam Youth Escort because of its yellow color (CFP)

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