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China Implicates Google In Web Porn Cleanup

January 5, 2009

China’s Ministry of Public Security and six other government agencies launched a campaign on Monday to put an end to the spread of pornography via popular search engines.

Pornography is illegal in China, but officials have had trouble effectively blocking it out entirely because of incoming Web sites from other countries.

Both Google and Baidu, China’s top Internet search engine, were implicated by the agencies as adding to, rather than alleviating the problem.

In a statement from the information office of the State Council, the agencies vowed to “purify the Internet’s cultural environment and protect the healthy development of minors.”

Officials also published a list of 19 Web sites that continue to distribute unsuitable material despite government warnings. The Web sites have been warned to clean up their material or they could face being shut down, according to one official.

“We will continue to expose, punish or close down websites that have a lot of vulgar content,” said one official, Cai Mingzhao, speaking on Chinese Central Television.

Baidu and Google, China’s biggest search engines, provide links to “a huge quantity of pornographic sites,” according to a statement from the China Internet Illegal Information Center today.

According to the CIIRC’s Web site, criteria for illegal and harmful information includes: “Those against the basic principles of the constitution, those that hinders national security and national unity, those that instigates ethnic hatred and discrimination, and hinders ethnic unity and solidarity, those that spreads obscene and pornographic content, content of gambling, violence, murder, terror, or criminal abetting, those that insults or libels the others, and violates the rights of the others, etc.”

“CIIRC is mainly focused on contents harmful to the healthy growth of minors, such as obscenity and pornography, gambling, violence, terror, criminal abetting, and contents that spread ethnic hatred, libeling and insulting, violating the others’ rights, and violating intellectual property rights.”

However, some fear the government’s move could be expanded to become a much larger form of censorship. This campaign could be used as an excuse to stifle political dissent in a country that allows little public criticism.

Other Web sites implicated in the announcement were operated by companies including Sohu.com Inc., Tencent Holdings Ltd., and NetEase.com Inc.

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