The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 be shipped with software blocking access to certain Internet sites, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
The software is called "Green Dam-Youth Escort." In China, "green" is said to refer to Internet use free from explicit adult materials and other illicit content.
While the Chinese government hasn't made the news public yet, the Journal reports that a May 19 Chinese government notice described the requirement as "constructing a green, healthy and harmonious Internet environment, and preventing harmful information on the Internet from influencing and poisoning young people."
According to research company IDC, PC sales to China are projected to exceed 40 million units in 2009. PC manufacturers that don't comply not only risk significant losses, but difficulties with factories and research facilities in China. By complying with the mandate, however, manufacturers could be accused of enabling censorship.
A spokesperson for Hewlett-Packard responded that HP is "working with the government authorities and evaluating the best way to approach this," the Journal reported.
The Chinese government already runs an Internet filtering system, which many Web surfers in China circumvent and that works at the network level, blocking content that might be embarrassing to the government or that promotes ideas it disagrees with, such as Falun Gong.
The Journal wrote that "the new method could give the government a way to tighten its control, say foreign industry officials who have examined the software."
The notice from the ministry reportedly said the Green Dam software must be either preinstalled or enclosed on a CD. The software is said to have been developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering along with Beijin Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy and designed to work with Microsoft's Windows operating system. According to the Journal, the founder of Jinhui, Bryan Zhang, said the software could be turned off or uninstalled.
The group Global Network Initiative, which has a tag line, "Protecting and Advancing Freedom of Expression and Privacy in Information and Communications Technologies," has created guidelines for how to address censorship requests from countries. Among its members are Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
It is still unclear how the personal PC manufacturers will respond to the Chinese government's request.