U.S. computer makers and free speech advocates won a hefty victory over China's ruling party last month when the People's Republic backed down on a mandate that all computers in that country come packaged with a state-approved Web filtering software known as Green Dam. Now, schools in Beijing are quietly winning their own battle against information control, removing the Green Dam filter from school computers.
By rule, schools, Internet cafes and other public terminals are still required to install and use Green Dam, though individual consumers are not legally required to install it. But some schools are removing the software from student terminals, claiming it interferes with teaching software needed for day-to-day learning. So far, defiance of the mandate has prompted no backlash from the state.
The Chinese government announced in June that all PCs sold in China after July 1 would be required to come with the Green Dam filtering software, which was developed and controlled by the state through a private company. Critics claimed it could be used to suppress dissent as well as to spy on Web users, though China claimed it would only be used to block pornographic content. Tech trade groups fought the mandate and China eventually relented, but the Ministry of Industry and Information still required Chinese schools to install the Green Dam software.
In their initial assessments back in June, many independent software experts noted that Green Dam exposed computers to security vulnerabilities and would not run smoothly alongside many Web-enabled programs. Chinese technology administrators also complained that the software could cause other programs to crash. Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., the software company that developed Green Dam, was also accused of piracy when a California tech firm specializing in parental control software claimed the program copied portions of its proprietary code.