"In the last two years, all of the miserable stuff that happened regarding children was all revealed through the Internet, even though some government officials, particularly the local ones, didn't want it to get out," Yang said.
Online forums also helped rally support for Deng Yujiao, a 21-year-old karaoke bar waitress who stabbed a local official to death after he demanded sex from her.
A court ruled Tuesday that Deng acted in self-defense and would face no punishment for the killing. The outpouring of support for the woman on the Internet in recent weeks prompted the local government to take the extraordinary step of pledging that she would receive a fair trial.
China has the world's most extensive system of Web monitoring and censorship and has issued numerous regulations in response to the rise of blogging and other trends. But it remains far more open than the country's tightly controlled print and television media.
Controlling online content has also become increasingly difficult with the explosion of China's Internet population, now the world's largest with 298 million users. Chinese blog authors total 162 million.
Green Dam is the government's most intrusive tool yet because it extends censorship to the user's personal hard drive and can even force non-Internet software like text editors to crash if a blacklisted phrase like Falun Gong is typed.
PC makers will determine if the software is pre-installed on the hard drive or enclosed on a CD and will be required to tell authorities how many computers they have shipped with the software.
Critics have argued that rolling out software in such a pervasive fashion will lead people to greater self-censorship among Chinese net users because they are bound to fear that the program might still be working secretly in the background even after it has been removed.
Tests of Green Dam by independent researchers have also found that the software makes computers more vulnerable to security threats.
Computer scientists at the University of Michigan said in a report last week that the program contained "serious security vulnerabilities due to programming errors," and recommended users protect themselves by uninstalling Green Dam immediately.
The Michigan report also said that a look at Green Dam's coding seemed to show some of it had been lifted from an American-made filtering program CyberSitter, raising questions about intellectual-property violations related to the software. The maker of that program, Solid Oak Software of Santa Barbara, Calif., plans to seek a court injunction, but acknowledged that it's new legal terrain for the company.
Wen Yunchao, a former journalist who blogs under the name Bei Feng, said many now hope the government will go a step further and scrap its 40 million yuan ($5.8 million) order for the software.
"When the government uses taxpayers' money, they should think clearly whether it's necessary or not," Wen said. "If you bought something that people don't use, then what's the point of spending all that money?"