Recently I have been covering the topic of the aptly named 'Great Firewall of China'. This issue of internet based censorship has had some rather serious issues of morality surrounding it, with many of the reasons behind China's actions caked in a layer of uncertainty.
Without going too much into the details of the background, due to the fact that I want to concentrate on the recently updated news, please follow the numbered links should you wish to read my initial stories, if you haven't already. If you have, just skip past and read on.
The time until China's deadline to PC manufacturers is growing shorter and shorter. The deadline of July 1 will mark the beginning of new legislation which requires that all PC's imported into the country, come pre-installed with the Chinese government's 'Green-Dam Project software'. This in short, is designed to reduce the amount of pornography which is likely to harm the younger generations within the country, critics damning it as a method of censorship.
Many PC companies seem to be quietly despondent about the matter, with representatives speaking anonymously to the media due to the sensitivity of the subject. Acer is currently the only company who publicly backs the project, along with other companies such as Dell and HP stating that they will be seeking additional advice on the matter.
Top U.S. trade officials have called on Beijing naming the software: a "serious barrier to trade". Beijing may have also violated its World Trade Organization commitments by failing to give companies adequate advance notice and time to comment.
MSNBC's website provides a quote from Acer's Spokesperson, Henry Wang on the matter. "We'll of course see how we can best accommodate the rules, There're rules when operating in any country, and we'll have to comply with them if necessary."
This uncertainty of compliance comes along with news from the Associated Press's website
where it reports that other PC companies are appealing directly to China to re-evaluate their request. Adding to pressure in Bejing, a letter from twenty two chambers of commerce representing some of the world's largest names in the technology world, follows an initial protest against the matter in Washington.
"The Green Dam mandate raises significant questions of security, privacy, system reliability, the free flow of information and user choice," Quote within the letter. Dated Friday.
This kind of direct protest is very unusual, according to the AP. Companies are normally reluctant to pass comment or judgement upon a particular government for fear of retaliation, or tarnishing business relationships. The letter has been signed by some big names, representatives from the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers and trade groups, including representatives from Japan and Europe. This makes an almost world wide issue with the implementation of the Green-Dam Project. The letter also states that the filtering plan "seems to run counter to China's important goal of becoming a vibrant and dynamic information-based society," a statement which lies concurrent to a statement provided by Susan Stevenson a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Beijing some weeks prior to this news. (Further details can be found in my previous articles.) However, a spokeswoman for China's ministry of commerce has declined to comment regarding the letter, stating she has not heard about its existence.
The system has also been publicly disliked by free speech activists along with some of China's 298 million internet users. Despite this attack upon the software, the Chinese government maintains that the software is needed to block access to violent and obscene material.
Whilst this may seem a positive step, certain analysts who have reviewed the program say it also contains code to filter out material the government considers politically objectionable, whilst researchers at the University of Michigan found: "serious security vulnerabilities due to programming errors" that could allow any web site a user visits to take control of a PC. This news along with some previously about the Chinese government in argument with search engine giant Google seems to only reinforce the assumption that perhaps the Green-Dam project has a darker political underbelly.
Finally, the Chinese manufacturer of the software has also received death threats in amongst some one thousand harassing telephone calls. Zhang Chenmin, the general manager of the company, told the official Xinhua News Agency that one caller threatened to kill his wife and child.