Don't look now, but China is messing with the Interwebs again.
As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, PC makers wishing to sell their hardware on that side of the great firewall after July 1 will be required to install a program called "Green Dam-Youth Escort" that keeps the machine from accessing illicit sites.
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Naturally, the Chinese officials say the program is there strictly to protect China's youth from the scourge of Internet porn. (Stop me if you've heard that one before.) Users wishing to log onto the Net must first access a government controlled database of blocked sites, which will route them around any content Beijing deems too naughty. China already blocks scads of sites, but savvy users have been able to circumvent the great firewall using things like proxy servers. Green Dam blunts that workaround. Per the Journal:
The government notice about the requirement says it is aimed at "constructing a green, healthy, and harmonious internet environment, and preventing harmful information on the internet from influencing and poisoning young people".
What exactly constitutes poison? Any site the Chinese government doesn't care for. Last week that included Twitter, Bing, Flickr, and Hotmail, which apparently got blocked so people couldn't use them to share their disgust memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre incident. (Those sites got unblocked this week.) And, of course, any site having to do with Guns N' Roses.
Worse, according to the Journal, the software can be used to collect user data, though it doesn't say what kind of data. Surfing histories, most likely. Wanna to bet that people who try to visit sites Chinese cybercops have covered in yellow tape end up on a list somewhere -- or worse?
PC makers now have the lovely choice of shipping/installing the Web filter with each new machine they sell or finding another market with 1.3 billion people willing to buy their stuff. Not a good position for anyone to be in.