• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25am

Suddenly, porn surfing on mainland is free for all

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am
 

A host of pornography websites and information technology websites have suddenly been unblocked by mainland censors since Tuesday morning. The question is: why?

The buzz apparently started with some Twitter postings in the morning that said: 'You can now freely search any porn you like in China. Everything seems to be unblocked.'

Then a Guangzhou-based internet analyst who uses the online identity Beifeng confirmed that at least 60 per cent of the overseas-based porn websites with Chinese content that he had bookmarked had been unblocked. He said mainland internet users could access more such websites with English content.

William Long, a Shenzhen-based blogger, wrote that besides 'a large number of porn websites', many overseas websites offering various types of online services, such as URL shortening and bookmark saving functions, had also been unblocked.

It is the first time censors have unblocked 'obscene' websites since 2008, when officials launched a large crackdown on pornography sites. The action shut down more than 16,000 mainland-based porn websites, not to mention countless overseas sites, by February.

This apparent lift of online censorship on porn has sparked intense speculation: Some are taking it as a tactic by authorities to distract public attention from the 21st anniversary of the June 4 crackdown at Tiananmen Square; others say that with the recent spate of extreme violence carried out by mostly middle-aged men, the government might be allowing a little pornography to deal with some pent-up testosterone.

Long said he believed it hinted at a change in the censors' strategy on controlling online information flow.

'The government has blocked a great number of non-political overseas websites since last year ... but the methods brought no social stability but global criticism instead,' he said. 'They might want to open porn websites to those mainlanders who are not interested in politics and used proxy services only to access porn sites but somehow bumped into sites with political content instead.'

The availability of porn websites would mean less likelihood of discovering sensitive political content, he said.

Beifeng said that if all pornography websites unblocked on Tuesday could be accessed, it would prove the anti-porn campaign begun in 2008 was just the censors' excuse to tighten their control on political content.

Most IT engineers interviewed by the South China Morning Post yesterday said they felt it was pointless to speculate on the authorities' motives and that the sudden access might just be due to technical issues. A Beijing-based IT designer said: 'I don't think the unblocking is necessarily a positive sign. It might be just a technical error by the Great Firewall, and all the websites you can open today might be blocked again tomorrow.'

Overseas political websites were still blocked, as were the well-known social networking platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And Tor, a popular proxy service for mainland internet users, was unstable.

'I'm at the expo [in Shanghai], and I can't access Twitter, Facebook or YouTube by using the wireless service provided by the expo organisers,' one mainland editor wrote online yesterday morning.

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