Under the category of epic fail, China is now bringing website filtering home. As a computer user I am sure that most of us have seen and experienced the effects of web or Internet filtering. This filtering can often be in place at work or in schools and libraries. Filtering systems are usually used to protect children or to reduce the waste of business resources.
China, which already has an extensive Internet filtering system in place, has given PC makers until July 1 to provide their new filtering software with each PC sold. Since the rule allows PC makers to simply include a CD in the box I expect that will be the option most PC makers will opt for. If China doesn’t change that rule soon I will be surprised. If customers are anything like they are around here it is unlikely many copies of that new filtering software will ever be installed.
The current web filter that China has is often called the Great Firewall and is used to block access to any website the Chinese government has deemed inappropriate. This filtering system is actually one of the most sophisticated in existence. You would think with a system this powerful already protecting China they would have little need of installing local filtering software.
Unfortunately, for Chinese government, their filtering system only protects at the network level. This means it can be routed around by technically savvy users. I would have to assume that these technical users are the primary target of this new web filtering initiative.
If China’s plans to “protect” technical users from pornographic and violent content I am not sure why they have gone through all this effort. They already know their firewall is leaky, but filtering software is even leakier. Almost any 15 year old kid is able to disable filtering software, I don’t see why this new software package will be any different.
I really only see 2 potential purposes behind this move by China. The first is that they really don’t realize what they are doing and are hoping this will actually provide additional protection that their current filtering system cannot. The other is China actually cares about their citizens and wants to provide even better protection for them. Adding more protections to the system already in place in China just seems like trying to plug the holes in a screen door by using another screen door, it might slow the flow but its still full of holes.
It shouldn’t be too long until we discover how happy China is with their new content filtering system. I personally believe they will find it quite disappointing.