New guildelines for child porn on internet and texts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am
 

The criminal threshold for those who spread child pornography over the internet and in phone text messages has been lowered, mainland authorities announced yesterday.

But the guidelines, which also affirm previous criminal thresholds set in 2004 for all other violations, failed to answer public concerns raised after three mainland telecommunications companies said they would scan text messages for 'unhealthy content', one internet expert said.

Anyone producing, copying, publishing, selling, or broadcasting more than 10 videos containing pornography of minors aged under 14, or more than 100 such messages will be subject to penalties ranging from a fine to life imprisonment if the purpose is commercial.

The threshold is less harsh if it is 'general' pornography, meaning those aged 15 or higher, or if the purpose is not commercial.

For spreading general pornography for non-commercial purposes, it is a crime only if one spreads more than 40 videos or more than 400 text messages, according to the 2004 guidelines, reaffirmed in the new guidelines, which came into effect yesterday.

Liu Deliang, internet law professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said the telecommunications companies were not bound by the standards for criminal offences and they could stop text message services of a user, according to their own standards.

'These guidelines are only for determining whether an act of spreading pornographic material is severe enough to be a crime,' Liu said. 'The telecommunications companies have no right to scan users' phone text messages to begin with. However, if the government supports such actions by the telecommunications companies, there's currently no law governing what standard the companies could use to impose a non-criminal punishment.'

The telecommunications companies claim their scanning actions are in response to government departments' call to weed out illegal text messages - but Liu said administrative orders are not a good enough foundation for actions that infringe on people's fundamental constitutional rights. 'The guidelines have not cleared up anything as far as the consumer is concerned,' he said.

There have been widespread concerns about privacy and the right of communication since the announcement last month by China Mobile, followed by China Telecom and China Unicom, about scanning text messages for pornographic material in order to support the government's campaign on 'protecting minors from unhealthy content'.

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