China’s obscenity watchdog steps up online pornography crackdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 6:04pm

China’s obscenity watchdog busted three popular online literature sites this week amid a recent clean-up campaign aimed at rooting out pornographic content on the internet, mainland media reported on Friday.

The anti-pornography office and the internet regulator jointly declared war against online obscenity last Sunday, as part of wider campaign to tighten its grip on the internet.

Entitled the “Clean Internet Campaign 2014”, the operation is targeting websites running pornographic articles “at the request of the people”, directives issued by the authority said.

Deputy office director of the anti-pornography department told the Beijing News on Thursday the office had uncovered eight “key cases” following “public complaints”.

Two literature websites based in Guangdong and Zhejiang respectively were banned for running pornographic articles for profit, while another website based in Fujian was suspended for spreading obscene content online, Xinhua reported on Thursday.

China Central Television spared two minutes in its half-hour-long Evening News Bulletin on the raid on Thursday, which showed police searching an office of the Guangdong-based website staffed mainly by young women.

Two suspects from the Guangdong-based site were detained and another two from the Zhejiang website were placed under investigation, state media reported.

People who post pornographic articles online for profit can be charged with crimes of producing and distributing obscene materials, which can lead to sentences of up to three years in jail, according to a judicial explanation issued in 2004.

Individuals who pocket over 250,000 yuan from publishing pornographic articles, defined as a serious violation of the law, can be charged with life imprisonment and confiscation of their personal property.

Shortly after the campaign was launched on Sunday morning, microbloggers posted on Weibo over 20 different sites could no longer be accessed, including those run by major internet portals.

The campaign comes hot on the heels of a crackdown on prominent WeChat accounts run by outspoken columnists in March. Tencent’s popular social media service saw at least 35 public accounts purged for carrying commentaries about current affairs on March 13.

Chinese pornography websites based overseas also came under the media spotlight. Shortly after the campaign was launched last week, an infographic exposing the huge profits made by Chinese online forum Grass Eclogite for sharing pornography was circulated on Weibo.

Based in the United States, the forum remains a survivor of the mainland’s internet censorship efforts. It made headlines after the Wenzhou train crash for running a series of photos exposing the authority’s cover-up of the incident in the early hours of the tragedy, while the major Chinese news outlets kept silent.