By Laura Sydell
In a posting on Twitter the Chinese artist and architect Ai Wei Wei called for a national boycott of the Web on July 1. In a tweet he asked all Chinese to stop "working, reading, blogging, gaming, and mailing," online.
Ai, an artist and architect, is best known around the world for creating the bird's nest design for the Olympic stadium in Bejing. He is calling for a one-day Web boycott to protest the communist government's requirement that all new computers have a censorship software called "Green Dam" installed by July 1.
The Chinese government says the software will block pornographic sites and protect children. But critics like Ai Wei Wei also see it's potential to open up computers to direct government meddling. American manufacturers will have to put the software on all of the computers they sell in China.
A study done at the University of Michigan found that having Green Dam on your computer can open it up to viruses and malware. According to the study it will "allow malicious sites to steal private data, send spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet." To add to the mess, a California software maker is suing the Chinese company that makes Green Dam over alleged copyright violations.
But, so far the Chinese government is showing no signs of backing down on its requirement that Green Dam be installed on all new computers sold in China. It seems possible that they are also worried by recent events in Iran where people were able to get around the censors to get first hand accounts, photos and videos to the outside world documenting the protests and clashes in Iran. Given the communist government's fear of protests, the authorities may see Green Dam's flaws as a great opportunity to reach right into private computers without even entering someone's house.
Ai Wei Wei has also been harassed recently by the Chinese authorities for blogging the names of children who were killed when badly constructed schools collapsed in last year's earth quake. The government shut down his blog and Ai has been visited at his home by the authorities.
categories: Law & Policy