China's internet censors


Jun 25th 2009 | BEIJING

From The Economist print edition

来自 经济学人 印刷版



THE internet is full of stuff of which China’s government disapproves. Yet there are 300m Chinese internet-users. Keeping the two apart has embroiled the Chinese authorities in a long cat-and-mouse struggle. Service-providers and internet cafés are closely supervised, and a wide array of filtering mechanisms already overlays the national internet architecture. A fresh initiative goes one step further. From July 1st every personal computer sold in China will have to come with new filtering software called Green Dam Youth Escort.


It has yet to be decided whether Green Dam must be pre-loaded, or left on a disk for users to install. But it has sparked an uproar. Chinese internet users have vented online their spleen at being nannied. Hackers are reported to have mounted repeated attacks on the website of Green Dam’s developer. It has also received more than 1,000 harassing phone-calls, including death threats.


An American firm, Solid Oak Software, claims Green Dam includes stolen copyrighted code from one of its products, and has launched legal action. Computer makers are understandably reluctant to abet a massive censorship scheme, or to anger their customers with unwelcome software. Moreover, independent experts at the University of Michigan found Green Dam to be riddled with outdated code and security flaws that would leave computers at risk.

美国软件公司Solid Oak称绿坝软件盗用了他们某一款产品的编码,该公司已经准备采取法律行动。可以理解的是,电脑制造商不愿成为网络审查行动的工具,因为它们不愿意因为软件而使消费者生气。另外,密歇根大学独立专家发现绿坝中存在安装漏洞而使电脑面临安全风险。

America’s Commerce Department this week lodged a formal complaint with the Chinese government, asking it to rescind the new rule. The government stresses Green Dam’s role in protecting young people from “unhealthy” and “poisonous” pornographic and violent content. But the Michigan experts found that it is also scans text for “politically sensitive” phrases.

本周 美国商务部将对中国政府的进行正式抗议,要求中国废止预装软件的政策。中国政府说绿坝意在保护青少年远离不健康和色情的图片和暴力视频。但密歇根的专家却发现该软件同时扫描政治敏感内容。

Whether to do with Tibet, Taiwan, or Falun Gong, a spiritual sect, there are plenty of these, leading to sites deemed “harmful” by China. In a year of harder economic times and sensitive political anniversaries, the authorities are especially edgy.


Despite the opposition, however, which includes a grassroots attempt to organise an internet boycott in China on July 1st, the government remains undaunted, promising that technical flaws will be fixed and that Green Dam will go forward. It has also opened a second front, lashing out at Google for including a feature in its Chinese service that automatically completes search-query terms—it complains that this can lead users to sites containing pornography.


Google has long struggled to reconcile its corporate credo (“Don’t be evil”) with the onerous demands of China’s internet regulators. It has promised to renew its efforts to keep in line with Chinese standards. But the company also has fair cause to wonder why it has been singled out. Its main Chinese competitor, Baidu, is just as good at finding smut.

长期以来 Google都努力在“不要作恶”的同时与中国互联网监管者要求中寻求平衡。现在谷歌已承诺会做出改变以符合中国标准。但同时谷歌为什么只有自己被盯上。因为它在中国的竞争者 百度 身上可以找到同样的东西来。