Costly Green Dam trial ends as funds dry up

09:26, July 14, 2010      

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Students at a primary school in Weifang city, Shandong Province, use computers with the "Green Dam – Youth Escort" filtering software when surfing the Internet on June 11. Photo: CFP

The developer of a controversial Internet-filtering software hasn't received government financing for more than a year, reports said Tuesday, effectively ending a costly attempt to censor "vulgar" online content through the pre-installation of the program on all computers sold on the Chinesemainland.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) spent 41.7 million yuan ($6.2 million) in May 2009 to procure the year-long right to use of the "Green Dam - Youth Escort" software program, from the Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy Co and the Zhengzhou-based Jinhui Computer System Engineering Limited Company, which jointly developed the program.

In issuing a sweeping installation order, authorities said the software would help block "pornographic" texts and images and that it was aimed at protecting young people from "harmful" content. Critics, however, feared that it would be used to block a wide range of Web content.

The MIIT refused to comment Tuesday.

The Beijing Dazheng academy shut down at the end of last month, and more than 30 staff members were laid off, the Beijing Times newspaper reported Tuesday, citing the company's general manager, Chen Xiaomeng.

As much as 20 million yuan went to Beijing Dazheng, according to Chen, adding that there was no additional financing from the MIIT after the one-off payment last year, the paper said.

However, the Beijing arm of the program refuted the Beijing Times' report, insisting that the Beijing office had merely "moved to another location because of a shortage of government financing, and operations were normal."

"Even though the government stopped injecting funds to us, our service support to the software customers will continue," Chen told the Global Times Tuesday.

The project team in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan Province, was also facing closure, putting more than 20 million users, mostly parents and those from schools and Internet cafes, at risk of losing technological and service support, the paper reported.

A female employee from the Zhengzhou-based company, who insisted on anonymity, denied that the office would close soon, saying, "Our business is independent, and the project and program upgrades are still in normal operations."

However, the official website of the software program, lssw365.net/lvhang/, didn't appear Tuesday to have been updated in more than a year, as the latest post in the news section was made June 10, 2009.

The customer service hotline was staffed Tuesday with an operator promising to call back within 24 hours for technical support.


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(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

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