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Porn-filtering software: It's up to users
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Computer makers are required to include a government-sponsored porn-filtering software but it is up to buyers to decide whether they want to use it, an official said yesterday.

"PC makers are only required to save the setup files of the program in the hard drives of the computers, or provide CD-ROMs containing the program with their PC packages," an official at the department of software service in the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), who spoke on condition of anonymity, told China Daily yesterday.

The users have the final say on the installation of the Green Dam-Youth Escort, so it is misleading to say the government compels PC users to use the software, the official clarified.

"The government's role is limited to having the software developed and providing it free," the official said.

The filter has to be included on all computers sold on the mainland from July 1 - and the reason is purely to protect youngsters from Internet pornography and violence, according to the government.

Over the weekend, major security flaws in Green Dam were reported by a group of computer professors from University of Michigan. They said the software contained programming errors which allow hackers to exploit the software and take control of users' computers. They also claimed Green Dam blocked politically-sensitive phrases in addition to pornographic content.

"We are aware of the software's security problems, and the software developer was told to rush software patches to solve the problem," said the official. "It is perfectly normal for an Internet filter to have security vulnerabilities."

"The blacklisted terms are not provided by the government," said the official.

"The government only purchased the software. It was the developer who decided what content needed to be blocked to protect youngsters from unhealthy information on the Internet."

The official also said that all security problems reported by the professors from University of Michigan had been fixed.

The Green Dam-Youth Escort was jointly developed by Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co and Beijing-based Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co.

The latter, which is responsible for the text-filtering function, has provided the list of the blacklisted terms, Jinhui's manager Zhang Chenming told China Daily on Sunday.

Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co refused to comment yesterday.

"The two companies won the bid fair and square last year to develop the software," the official said.

"Both companies have advanced Internet filtering technologies and that was why they were chosen. The whole bidding procedure was open and above board."

MIIT has spent 41.7 million yuan (US$6.1 million) on the software to cover the cost of development as well as future maintenance and updates, which would be free to users.

(China Daily June 16, 2009)

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