[xtypo_dropcap]T[/xtypo_dropcap]he Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has ordered that all computers purchased in China after July 1 have a new internet filtering software pre-installed that the regime says targets pornography and other “unhealthy information.”
In fact, this software especially targets Falun Gong and the Epoch Times editorial series Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, in addition to pornography. It threatens to give the Chinese regime unprecedented control over the internet, although opposition to the forced installation of the software is mounting.
“Green Dam-Youth Escort” was developed by Jinhui Computer Systems Inc. and Dazheng Language Process Inc., with the former in charge of image filtration and the later keyword filtration. In 2005, Dazheng was involved in the development of a “secret files intercept system” for the Chinese army. According to its Web site, Jinhui has worked with both the Chinese army and the public security ministry.
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.
Falun Gong Targeted
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.
Some of these keywords include: “Falun Gong disciples,” “Falun Gong,” “Falun Dafa,” “Fa Lun,” “Fa—Lun—Gong,” “FA-Lun-Gong,” “FAlun__Gong,” “Fa_Lun_Gong,” “Falun—Gong,” “overseas Falun Gong disciple,” “overseas Falun Gong,” etc.
It also includes words related to Falun Gong. The principles of Falun Gong are truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, and among the keywords are: “Truthfulness,” “Compassion,” “Zhen [Truthfulness],” “Shan [compassion]” and “Ren [forbearance],” “Zhen-Shan-Ren is Buddha law,” “Zhen Shan Ren Month,” “Zhen-Shan-Ren Week,” etc.
The keywords also target Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, the Epoch Times editorial series that set in motion a movement in which so far 55 million Chinese have dissociated themselves from the Chinese Communist Party and its related organizations.
The keywords include: “thoughts after reading Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party” or the “Nine Commentaries.” There are quite a few words related to the Nine Commentaries' discussion of the Communist Party, e.g. the “Communist Party’s brutality,” “tyranny,” “deceit,” “history of killing,” “depravity,” etc.
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 dissidents.
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. The system deploys firewalls at the key nodes of the internet to block access to a range of content including politically sensitive topics, such as Falun Gong. The system can do IP address filtering, domain name hijacking, and a small amount of content filtering.
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 interface.”
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.”
Three members of the Computer Science and Engineering Division of of the University of Michigan—Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman—published an analysis of Green Dam.
The summary of that analysis in part reads, “Once Green Dam is installed, any web site the user visits can exploit these [programming] problems to take control of the computer. This could allow malicious sites to steal private data, send spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet. In addition, we found vulnerabilities in the way Green Dam processes blacklist updates that could allow the software makers or others to install malicious code during the update process.”
This analysis is based on 12 hours of work by three engineers. They believe the results they have so far may be “only the tip of the iceberg” regarding vulnerabilities to which Green Dam exposes computer users.
Users of Green Dam have found some serious technical problems in the software, such as false filtering, slowing down the internet access speed, random password changing, and forced closure of internet explorer.
Public opposition to the Green Dam software has surfaced, both in and out of China.
The Chinese human rights lawyer Li Fangping has circulated a letter he wrote to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, asking for hearings on the legality of Green Dam.
Caijing magazine, the People’s Daily, and China Youth Daily have all published articles critical of the software.
U.S. trade associations issued a statement that raised the question of “how parental control software can be offered in the [Chinese] market in ways that ensure privacy, system reliability, freedom of expression, the free flow of information, security and user choice.”
On June 12, a petition objecting to the pre-installation of Green Dam began circulating on the Chinese internet, and internet users are making their displeasure widely known in chat rooms.
Of course, this ferment on the internet is exactly what Green Dam is meant to help control. Events this past month may have raised for Chinese authorities the question of whether they are losing control of the internet and the ability to control public opinion.
On May 10, a waitress and pedicurist named Deng Yujiao defended herself against alleged sexual assault by Chinese Communist Party officials, killing one and wounding another. The Chinese internet exploded with postings defending Deng Yujiao and condemning the CCP officials, and some of the state-run media also defended her.
With the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre having just passed, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the persecution of Falun Gong coming on July 20, the regime may expect a restive Chinese people will only more vigorously seek the means to express itself.