A Chinese government directive requiring domestic computer manufacturers and manufacturers that export computers to China to pre-install filtering software – “Green Dam Youth Escort” software – was made public on June 8, 2009. Human Rights in China (HRIC) has translated the directive and compiled the following background information on the development and use of the software.
The directive, titled “Notification Regarding Requirements for Pre-Installing Green Filtering Software on Computers,” was issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on May 19, 2009, and was made available on the software provider’s website on June 8, 2009.
The software was jointly developed by the Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Company (北京大正语言知识处理科技有限公司) and the Jinhui Computer System Engineering Company (郑州金惠计算机系统工程有限公司). Under the MIIT’s leadership, the two companies established a working group called Green Online Filtering Software Project Working Team in July 2008.
According to information posted by the Department of Software Service Provider Industry (软件服务业司) [unofficial translation by HRIC] of the MIIT, as of June 1, 2009, there have been 2,170,000 installations of the software in about 80 percent of all elementary and high schools in China.
The following is the directive in the original Chinese and in English translation by HRIC.
Notification Regarding Requirements for Pre-installing Green Filtering Software on Computers
Translation by Human Rights in China (June 8, 2009)
Document of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology [MIIT] 工业和信息化部文件
Gong Xin Bu Ruan  No. 226
Notification Regarding Requirements for Pre-installing Green Filtering Software on Computers
To the work units concerned:
In order to build a green, healthy, and harmonious online environment, and to avoid the effects on and the poisoning of our youth’s minds by harmful information on the Internet, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Civilization Office3 of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, and Ministry of Finance, in accordance with the Government Procurement Law, have used CCP financial capital to purchase one-year exclusive rights to use “Green Dam Youth Escort” Green Online Filtering Software (hereinafter referred to as “Green Dam Youth Escort”) along with related services so that the whole society may use it free of charge. After comprehensive testing and pilot use, the software has been shown to effectively filter harmful content in text and graphics on the Internet and has already satisfied the conditions for pre-installation by computer manufacturers.
To achieve further results of the Special Corrective Action Against Vulgarity on the Internet campaign, continue combining punishment and prevention, ensure the healthy growth of minors, and push for the healthy and orderly development of the Internet, according to the overall deployment for the Special Corrective Action Against Vulgarity on the Internet campaign, the following are the specific requests for the pre-installation of green filtering software:
1. Computers manufactured and sold domestically should have the newest version of “Green Dam Youth Escort” software pre-installed when they leave the factories. Imported computers should have the newest version of “Green Dam Youth Escort” pre-installed before being sold.
2. “Green Dam Youth Escort” should be pre-installed on the hard drive of the computer or in the form of a CD accompanying the computer. It should also be included in the backup partition and system restore CD.
3. Providers of “Green Dam Youth Escort” should use active measures to support computer manufacturers in developing pre-installation-related work.
4. Computer manufacturers and sellers should finish pre-installation tests for “Green Dam Youth Escort” and related work by the end of June 2009. All computers manufactured and sold after July 1, 2009, should have “Green Dam Youth Escort” pre-installed.
5. In 2009, computer manufacturers and “Green Dam Youth Escort” software providers should report monthly computer sales figures, filtering software pre-installation figures of the previous month, and suggestions to the Department of Software Service Provider Industry of the MIIT; and should, starting in 2010, before the end of each February, report yearly figures for the previous year.
For all instances of computers that have not had the software pre-installed, late reports, false reports, or refusal to report, MIIT will order the missing reports to be submitted within a specific time frame, or take corrective actions.
China to require software on PCs to block sites
By Lucy Hornby and Kelvin Soh
BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) – The Chinese government has required that personal computer makers bundle software that filters Internet content from July 1, raising concerns over cyber-security as well as Internet freedoms.
The free “Green Dam-Youth Escort” software, developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co, can effectively filter “unhealthy words and images,” according to a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology document seen by Reuters.
Foreign computer makers are now caught between maintaining access to their fastest-growing major market, and concerns the mandatory software will make their products vulnerable to security breaches as well as potential malfunctions.
The requirement to pre-install the software is “in order to consolidate the achievements of the online campaign against pornography, combine punishment and prevention, protect the healthy growth of young people, and promote the Internet’s healthy and orderly development,” the ministry said.
Many aspects of the software are still unknown, but computer industry sources worry it could open a channel for industrial espionage as well as blocking content Beijing dislikes.
China already has a system to block websites deemed objectionable. Internet police monitor sites, blogs and other online venues for pornographic or politically sensitive content.
“Summer vacation is coming up, and many Chinese parents worry about what their children will see on the Internet. That’s the purpose of the software,” Jinhui founder Bryan Zhang said.
“Even if you wanted to use it for, say, political content, you couldn’t, because it’s image distinction software that tracks pornographic images,” Zhang told Reuters.
PC makers must report to the ministry the number of computer units sold and software packages installed on a monthly basis in 2009, and yearly starting in February 2010, the circular says.
“Using the software is not compulsory. You can shut it down or take it out if you want to. With a password, you can turn it off at any time,” Zhang said.
“It’s an optional tool to prevent access to pornography, just like anti-pornography software in the United States.”
An industry official, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation against his company, said foreign technicians testing the software had been unable to uninstall it.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Monday.
China is one of the world’s fastest-growing PC markets, with research firm Gartner forecasting total PC shipments will climb by about 3 percent this year to more than 42 million units.
The Chinese market is dominated by homegrown brands such as Lenovo and Founder, although global brands such as HP, Dell and Acer also have a significant market share.
Acer said it was not aware of the new requirement, while rival Taiwanese maker Asustek said it was but had not yet been officially informed by the Chinese government.
“Along with the rest of the industry … we are studying it and working with relevant government and other parties to seek clarifications,” said Dell spokeswoman Faith Brewitt.
Jinhui last year won a tender to supply filtering software to the ministry, according to government procurement information.
Since then, the ministry has subsidized the company to make the software available for free downloads, said Zhang. It previously sold for 368 yuan ($54) a package.
The software will remain free for a year, and after that consumers will have to pay to continue using it, Zhang said.
It has already been bundled in over 50 million locally made PCs offered rural dwellers as part of China’s economic stimulus package, according to a promotional website (www.lssw365.net).
It said the software is being used by 2,279 schools across China and had been downloaded 3.27 million times by end-March.
The U.S. embassy in Beijing said it was concerned.
“We would view any attempt to restrict the free flow of information with great concern and as incompatible with China’s aspirations to build a modern, information-based economy and society,” an embassy spokesman said.
Compliance could leave computer manufacturers open to charges they abetted censorship and violation of privacy.
The software has a “black list” of sites with pornographic or violent content it blocks, said a customer service representative affiliated with a website offering the software for downloading.
The software also has a “white list” of permitted websites. Users can add or delete websites from the white list. While the white list is publicized, the black list is not.
Savvy Internet users in China currently stay one step ahead of censors by using virtual private networks or proxy servers to access sites outside China, and spread information domestically by quickly reposting expunged content or using oblique language.
Pornography is easily accessed on the Chinese Internet.
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Jerry Norton)