China's new Green Dam filtering program blocks far more content than pornography, despite the MIIT’s claims, that it is to protect youth from obscene content, the OpenNet initiative said.
Instead the program filters political and religious content, and is “far more intrusive” than any other content control software the initiative has reviewed, OpenNet researchers said.
“[Green Dam is] a substandard software product that interferes with the performance of personal computers in an unpredictable way, killing browsers and applications without warning while opening up users to numerous serious security vulnerabilities,” the researchers said.
The program actively monitors computer behavior, terminating a wide range of programs if sensitive keywords are entered, said OpenNet, which is a joint project between Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and other universities to monitor government internet surveillance.
For example, entering falundafa.org into browsers or even word processors such as Notepad results in these programs being closed automatically.
With just a single auto-update implementing a few changes to the code, Green Dam could be used to monitor personal communications and browsing behavior, the researchers said. Green Dam already creates log files, but these are stored locally.
OpenNet also called the plan to mandate the use of a particular software product a “questionable policy decision,” despite China's decision to make the installation of the programvoluntary.
Meanwhile, US software publisher Solid Oak Software is seeking an injunction preventing US companies from shipping software bundled with Green Dam, alleging part of the program was stolen from its CyberSitter filtering program.
Solid Oak has found pieces of its proprietary code in Green Dam, as well as a copy of instructions for updating the software, the company told Reuters.
The Chinese company behind the filtering software – Jinhui Computer Systems – denied any wrongdoing.