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Press Is Under-reporting and Understating Police State Capabilities of China's New 'GD Software'

July 6, 2009

By Tom Blumer - July 3, 2009

Today's dispatch from the Associated Press about the Chinese Communist
government's attempt to require that a state-developed program called "Green
Dam Youth Escort" be installed on all new personal computers sold in that
country is all too typical of the awful reporting on this potentially
frightening development.

I will refer to Green Dam Youth Escort as "the GD software" for the balance
of this post. Many readers will find this abbreviation particularly
appropriate once they fully understand everything the GD software could
potentially do.

The latest news about the GD software is that the government has delayed
what was to be a July 1 installation requirement, but that it intends to go
forward with that mandate at some point. In the meantime, for reasons not
fully vetted, many PC makers have begun shipping units with the GD software
either already installed or included on an accompanying CD.

Considering the gravity of what the Chinese Communist government is trying
to do to its people, worldwide media coverage of the GD software has been
much lighter than justified. Somehow, what may happen to the free speech and
free expression rights of 1.3 billion people isn't anywhere near as
important as what's happening in connection with an entertainer who has been
dead for a week.

Here are key paragraphs from Joe McDonald's AP story, as carried at USA
Today (bolds after title are mine]:

PC makers voluntarily supply Web filter in China

Several PC makers were including controversial Internet-filtering software
with computers shipped in China on Thursday despite a government decision to
postpone its plan to make such a step mandatory.

Beijing's decision this week to delay the requirement that the filtering
software - known as Green Dam - be pre-installed or supplied on disk with
all computers sold in China averted a possible trade clash with the United
States and Europe. But the move by some makers to include the software
anyway could re-ignite complaints by Chinese Web users.

Also Thursday, a government newspaper said regulators will revive the plan
to make Green Dam mandatory at some point, a move that would disappoint
opponents who hoped the government would drop the effort.

Taiwan's Acer- the world's No. 3 PC maker -Sony and China's Haier said they
were shipping Green Dam on disks with computers for sale in China. China's
Lenovo, the No. 4 producer, said it would offer the software pre-installed
or on disk. Taiwan's Asus said it was preparing to supply Green Dam disks
with PCs. Taiwanese laptop maker BenQ said the system was on the hard drives
of its computers.

Acer was supplying Green Dam because disks were already packed with PCs
before the government postponed the plan, that had been due to take effect
Wednesday, said a company spokeswoman, Meng Lei. Lenovo said it also was
going ahead with plans made before the Green Dam order was postponed.

Hewlett-Packard, the world's top PC manufacturer, said it was working with
the U.S. government to get more information and declined to comment further.
No. 2 Dell said it was not including Green Dam with its PCs.

..... An official of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
quoted Thursday by the China Daily said regulators will revive the plan to
make Green Dam mandatory.

..... Beijing operates extensive Internet filters to block access to
material considered obscene or subversive. Still, Chinese Web users were
outraged by Green Dam, which would have raised screening to a new level by
putting it on each computer.

As you will see, calling the GD software a form of "Internet filtering" is
like calling a telephone eavesdropping device a "call screener."

Here, from an Epoch Times article that was originally in Chinese, is a more
complete description of what the GD software actually can do:

The regime says Green Dam can block pornography, filter illicit content,
control web surfing time, and check browsing records. In fact, the software
is capable of blocking politically sensitive websites, filtering out content
based on a list of keywords, recording keystrokes and passwords, taking
screenshots every 3 minutes, and recording all of the websites visited along
with all of the user's other internet activity.

..... Computer hackers in China have cracked open Green Dam's keyword
library and administrative codes.

According to the information produced by these hackers, Green Dam has 2,700
keywords relating to pornography, and 6,500 politically sensitive keywords.
While these keywords include references to the Tiananmen Square massacre and
Tibet, the great majority of the keywords refer to Falun Gong, the spiritual
practice the Chinese regime banned and began persecuting in 1999.

..... Analysts believe that Green Dam gives the regime the ability to
tighten its control by collecting personal information and secretly sending
it to a central database, while strengthening the regime's ability to censor
the internet. The collected information could then be used to persecute

In 2003 the Chinese regime launched the Golden Shield, also known as the
Great Firewall of China, an internet filtering system that cost tens of
billions of yuan. The Internet Freedom Consortium believes Golden Shield is
the world's most stringent web filtering system.

..... However, Golden Shield can be circumvented by such popular
anti-filtering software programs as FreeGate, UltraSurf, and Garden. Green
Dam can block these programs.

Chinese users of Green Dam have found that the Green-Dam injects a dll file
into Internet Explorer that prohibits the usage of FreeGate. Analysts
predict that Green Dam will in its future updates add code that will
prohibit the usage of proxy servers, another anti-blockage technology.

The makers of Green Dam claim that, while the software will be
pre-installed, users can remove it.

A mainland Chinese computer expert discovered the truth after he installed
and uninstalled the screening software. He said, "When we used its [Green
Dam] uninstallation program to uninstall the software, about half of Green
Dam's 110 system files continued to reside in the computer. After restarting
the computer, Green Dam's screening program is running actively in the
background. The only part of the software uninstalled is its user

The expert added, "Pre-loading the screening software and providing an
uninstallation program that does not actually uninstall the software is an
act of coercion. Green Dam project is a coercive software."

What I have seen from the AP has consistently described the GD software as
"Internet filtering" at least as far back as this June 21 report.

This June 12 Christian Science Monitor article by Peter Ford confirms that
the GD software goes well beyond blocking only pornographic material and
terms, and that "its makers, Jinhui, boast on their website that Green Dam
offers "real-time screen captures, detailed Internet usage records for
post-facto monitoring," and a tool to disable proxy servers, which many
Chinese Internauts use to get around the "great firewall" and into sensitive
political sites that would otherwise be blocked by existing filters.

Clearly, the GD software is intended to complete the task of perfecting the
Chinese police state's control of computers and communications. If that
actually occurs, the world described by George Orwell in "1984," at least
technologically speaking, would look like a relative picnic.

Only four things appear to stand in the way of the GD software's success:

* PC maker resistance, which appears weak to noncommittal;
* Pressure from other governments, which appears to be mostly the same;
* Technical problems -- the software is very buggy, according to this review
of the program by three members of the Computer Science and Engineering
Division at the University of Michigan, though it's tough not to wonder if
the Chinese Communists really consider some of the alleged "bugs" to be
* World opinion, which thanks to light establishment media reporting, has
been mostly muted.

The Western press's failure to give prominence to news about the GD
software, its totally inaccurate description of its capabilities, and its
failure to explore potentially horrible implications for the human rights of
the Chinese people may someday be seen as an unforgivable journalistic

A related post is at

-Tom Blumer is president of a training and development company in Mason,
Ohio, and is a contributing editor to NewsBusters
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