(Update June 11) Here is a review of the software, by experts at Univ. of Michigan.
(Original) Yesterday I read from WSJ that Chinese government is asking the PC makers to install anti-porn software “Green dam” from July 1. I can understand western media’s interest here: the intension of government is more than protecting the Chinese kids, it’s more about controlling access to the world wide web, blah blah blah. I think this kind of analysis overly simplied (and obscured) many things happening in China. The real situation in China is more complicated. Since I grow up in China and read Chinese, I visit Chinese web sites from time to time. One thing I found over the years, is there are much more sex related content in Chinese web sites, even for sites like Sina, Netease (163.com) or Sohu.
(User Interface of Green Dam software, source: WSJ)
So there is a legimate concern on the porn stuff on domestically produced Chinese web sites, which unfortunately GFW can not help to curb. Another worrysome trend, I think, is the online game and net-cafe. Because the content and time-consuming nature of online games, Chinese parents don’t like to see their children play computer games at home, plus not every home has PC and high speed internet. Thus creates the opportunity of so called Netcafe. I have been to Netcafe couple times (not for game, but for email), and I can see those teenager kids playing games all day. Not surprisingly, one draw of the game is porn or “almost porn” stuff.
Green dam alone can not stop porn
But the real point I want to say, is a software like Green dam can not stop porn. As I understand Green dam is a piece of software installed on Windows (which is the primary PC operating system in China, both authentic and pirated), and it checks a web site against a database (which is derived from the software maker). But the current rule says PC makers can either pre-install or ship a CD with it. I bet most PC makers will include a CD (to make their lives easier). Other factors:
1) The software itself was tested accoring to China Software Testing Center. But I don’t know whether PC makers have tested it against all active Windows versions. I know from software development experience the testing may not be sufficient. In other words, the software may not behave as desired in real world.
2) Let’s assume it works, and it’s being installed in some Net-cafes (because big brother mandates it). Now the porn stuff does not show, or computer runs much slower (because of the new program), fewer teenagers will come for the game, less money for the owner of Net-cafe, less bribes for the big brothers (sisters) who regulate the Net-cafes…everyone will not be happy. We all want a harmonious society, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want teenagers go watch those stuff, and I am all for Green dam, if it works. But I think the web/online games content in China bady need cleaning up, a Green dam alone won’t work.
Appendix: comments on Green Dam by Keso