BEIJING — Does China have a secret head of its government named Yo-Yo Waffle? After announcing earlier this week that China would delay implementation of nationwide software filtering for PCs, the plan is back on.
The controversial software was to have been mandatory on all Chinese computers as of July 1.
"The government will definitely carry on the directive on Green Dam. It's just a matter of time," said an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Many thought the delay meant the end of the scheme, stopped due to internal pressure in China from Internet users, opposition for major computer makers such as those in the U.S., and also official protests from the American and European governments.
But the mandate was delayed only to give computer firms more time, the MIIT official said.
"What will happen is that some PC manufacturers will have it included with their PC packages sooner than the others," he said.
However, he did state "there is no definite deadline at the moment."
China-based PC companies have said they will install the filter as ordered, though some will include a disclaimer of not being held responsible for any damage caused by Green Dam. Other computer companies, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard in the U.S., have not commented further since first opposing the software inclusion.
Meanwhile, the Chinese firm that developed Green Dam, Jinhui Computer System Engineering, may still be sued by California's Solid Oak, which claims Green Dam codes were lifted from its CyberSitter porn filter parental software.
"Even though the government has delayed the move, it does not mean this is a dead issue," Solid Oak spokesperson Jenna DiPasquale told China Daily, adding that Solid Oak is seeking a legal representation in China.
Also, computer makers could be named as infringers as well if they preinstall Green Dam into machines.
"The fact remains that there are currently 55 million users with Green Dam installed. Our intellectual property has been obtained illegally and the evidence is undisputable," DiPasquale said.
While the Chinese government claimed the software was designed to protect children from pornography and other "vulgar" content, opponents have countered it also blocks political content on the Web and monitors user surfing as spyware, reports The Guardian.
Tech experts have also warned that Green Dam can create computer security breaches and could easily be hacked as well.
Ben Feinstein, director of research at security provider SecureWorks, told CNET there is no doubt that users of computers containing the software will be at risk, noting the Green Dam code employs unsafe programming banned at Microsoft and other U.S. computer firms.
"This software appears to be of low quality and to have not been developed with a secure methodology," Feinstein said. "It likely suffers from a whole host of problems."
Hong Kong-based Internet specialist Rebecca McKinnon has been following China's attempts to control technology use and the Internet for years.
"What should be abundantly clear from events of the past several weeks is that industry and even ordinary citizens can have a real impact on policy outcomes in China — especially information and technology policy that has a direct impact on large numbers of people nationwide," McKinnon wrote on her website Thursday. "It's not clear whether a new deadline will be set, the mandate radically revised or the whole thing quietly scrapped. Which of those three options becomes reality depends very much on the actions over the next few months by industry, Chinese netizens and various other actors."