Green Dam: Class Background Matters

Chinese industry and information technology minister Li Yizhong (李毅中) said on Thursday that poorly written regulations had led to the misunderstanding that the installation of Green Dam software would be mandatory on every new computer. However, all public computers in schools and internet cafes would have to install the software.

Besides the formulation of regulations, he also blamed the amplification and politicization of the Green Dam project as irresponsible (this supposedly refers to criticism of the software). Li Yizhong said that the main purpose of Green Dam was to counter illegal online activities, and malignant information (不良信息).

The new approach still leaves a lot of questions open – about computer security, if reports that Green Dam weakens computer security are correct, and also about free choice between different softwares. After all, many other software licensors – within China and abroad – offer filtering software for minors, too, and could be opted for by internet cafe operators, rather than the two domestic licensors chosen by the ministry.

Minister Li indicated that Green Dam‘s filtering efficiency was at about 90 per cent. It would be interesting to know if it is 90 per cent both on porn, and politically sensitive topics, or if the filtering efficiency differs on these two fields.

The development also suggests that Chinese class society is becoming still more distinctive. The latest difference – as far as is up to the ministry – isn’t only about if you are in China or abroad, and it isn’t only about who has internet access (even if only in an internet cafe) and who hasn’t. When it comes to the obligation to view the world through Green Dam, it is also about who owns a computer, and who doesn’t.

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