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Software development

This Green dam thing

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(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.

green dam anti-porn software
(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

三言二拍:今天你绿坝了没有?

Google一下“绿坝 花季护航”,共找到172万个结果。“绿坝”迅速蹿红互联网,也就这两三天的事,不知相关部门当初是否想到了这样的结果?

我对政府强推一种家长控制软件,其实没什么意见,露骨的色情、暴力内容,确实不该让未成年人看到。如果绿坝真能保护未成年人免受不良内容的侵害,我觉得是一件好事。从另一个角度说,或许它能减轻相关部门“反低俗”的压力,也省得他们不停地去折腾守法经营的网站们。在中国做互联网真不是一件轻松的事,尤其是那些有用户产生内容的网站,得花费比国外网站更多的人力、财力,自我和谐,以满足政府“反低俗”的行政指标。如果绿坝这样的软件,能让豆瓣、土豆、天涯们生存得稍微容易一点,也算功莫大焉。

当然我也知道,我的想法只是一个梦想,比马丁路德金的那个梦要不靠谱多了。折腾这件事,一向都是政府最喜欢、最擅长做的。如果连政府都不折腾了,会有多少人从此无所事事,我们又会失去多少乐趣啊。所以,我真的不敢奢望,有害信息被绿坝挡住了,中国的互联网会就此变得安生。

所以,绿坝不是为了减少对网站的折腾,而是在原有的折腾之外,新增一种折腾的类别。

借政府之手,进行商业推广的事,我见得多了,但既得到了政府的强行推广,又能从政府拿到几千万,这种事儿还真不太多见。如果我是软件开发者,别说跟政府要钱,就算倒过来,我每年给送政府4170万元,政府帮我强推,我都干。一旦你能控制用户可访问的内容,还有什么样的商业模式不能建立?一年之内造就一个上亿用户的软件公司,你说这样的公司该值多少钱?

根据工信部的通知,相关部委买断的只是绿坝的“一年使用权及相关服务”,但却要求计算机生产者和“绿坝-花季护航”软件提供者逐年上报计算机销售数量、过滤软件预装数量等数据。所以我不知道,这个通知的有效期到底是一年,还是无限期?以后政府每年都要花掉纳税人的4170万元,还是只管一年,一年后用户要自己掏钱接受政府的强制安装?联想、戴尔等PC厂商一年后要自己掏钱买软件送给用户,还是它们只需预置一个试用版,用户要用得自己额外掏钱?

纵观绿坝门,我真是对软件背后的那两家公司佩服得五体投地,得是多么牛逼的政府公关能力,才能把政府管理得如此服服帖帖,跟自个儿家的家丁一般?

今天,你绿坝了没有?

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