To China’s Internet Filter, Garfield is Pornography, Porn is Not

By Allison Bond | June 30, 2009 2:58 pm

computerFormer Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that although he couldn’t define pornography, he’d know it when he saw it. Was he talking about images of Garfield? How about a photo of cooked pork? Well, according to the mandatory Internet filtration software proposed by the Chinese government, both pics should be blocked because they are pornographic.

The filter, known as Green Dam-Youth Escort, was about to be required to be installed in all personal computers sold in the country, beginning July 1. However, the government has reportedly reneged on this mandate, and has postponed that deadline indefinitely. And it’s a good thing: Critics worry that the software will be used for censorship, and the program also fails to effectively block plenty of content that may concern parents. According to Reuters:

When the software is installed, and an image scanner activated, it blocks even harmless images of a film poster for cartoon cat Garfield, dishes of flesh-color cooked pork and on one search engine a close-up of film star Johnny Depp’s face. With the image filter off, even though searches with words like “nude” are blocked, a hunt for adult websites throws up links to soft and hardcore pornography sites including one with a video of full penetrative sex playing on its front page.

Green Dam has not detailed how it scans images for obscene content, but computer experts have said it likely uses color and form recognition to zoom in on potential expanses of naked flesh. Program settings allow users to chose how tightly they want images scanned. When too much skin is detected, Green Dam closes all Internet browsers with no warning, sometimes flashing up a notice that the viewer is looking at “harmful” content.

But the interpretation of obscene is apparently generous enough to include the orange hue of Garfield’s fur and, on the highest security settings, prevent viewers clicking through to any illustrated story on one English language news website.


Some of Green Dam’s other capabilities are downright disturbing, Reuters reports:

Government critics worry the “illegal activities” section will cover political and social activities Beijing objects to, tightening access to non-approved information, already filtered by censors and a firewall. Another setting allows Green Dam to take regular snapshots of a user’s screen and store them for up to two weeks—ostensibly so parents can monitor computer use by minors. But it could also potentially leave security officials a track of computer use by a suspected dissident, or be a gift to fraudsters hunting online bank details and private information.

Nothing like the government breathing down your neck to make surfing the ‘net a blast!

Related Content:
Discoblog: Is Pollution in China Causing Cats to Grow “Wings?”
Discoblog: Could Beijing’s Polluted Air Sicken Olympic Spectators?
Discoblog: The Air Over There: As the Olympics End, a Look Back at Air Quality

Image: flickr/ bhollar

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Pingback: To China’s Internet Filter, Garfield is Pornography, Porn is Not | Cure Insomnia And Get Rid Of Sleepless Nights

  • Grant H

    This whole Green Dam thing just seems so clumsy. I would’ve thought that China could put together some pretty slick software when it comes to censorship.
    There is that whole compromised Cisco hardware thing which went completely undetected for ages, and then there’s this Green Dam which apparently might use plagiarized code, it doesn’t work properly and it just seems clumsy.
    This situation just seems a bit weird.

  • http://news.e-numx.com/about/ Cain

    Free VOIP Reseller – http://www.wholesale.e-numx.com

  • http://www.analstraponlesbians.com/ Vincent Gerd

    Hi, I can’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you help me, please :)

  • http://www.uncensoredmaterial.com celebfan

    Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking you feeds also.

  • http://comobajardepesoya.com Adelgazar

    When I was in China last month, I couldn’t even access Youtube or Facebook. That was terrible. I mean I really didn’t care for adult stuff, but come on, even Twitter was blocked and even kids can access those sites in the states…

  • http://www.hotmail.com mail

    Best Regards.

  • http://www.spielegarten.com spiele

    Thanks for your sharing editor. Best Regards.

  • Anonymous

    Haha it’s indeed true! Everything is blocked in China. Makes it clear it is not yet a democracy! 

  • http://www.comvigo.com Web Filter

    Now Internet filter makes a need of every country.

  • http://www.comvigo.com Block Websites

    Nice post and thanks for sharing your views about china Internet filter.
     

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »