China Censors 60K Websites, 350+ Million Pages, Proud Of It

So what exactly is China's definition of pornography and obscenity? You might run into a few problems in trying to find out.
Written by Violet Blue, Contributor

Now, the first takeaway you need to go with that headline is that according to the Chinese government, the 60,000 websites China shut down in 2010 were pornographic and obscene.

Maybe only a perv like me wants to know what kind of porn they removed, but in asking that question I ran into a few problems. Like, China's definition of pornography and obscenity.

This much is true: "pornography" is universally a convenient term for "stuff we don't like."

According to China's state media, websites have been shut down and people have been convicted for disseminating pornographic material as part of an ongoing anti-obscenity push.

Obscenity, they say, such as flash games and online writings about political commentary. Total porn. In one instance, an online anti-smut sweep pulled numerous pages and notable web portals (Bullog and Gettao) where bloggers posted political satire and opposing viewpoints.

And porn, too. Though you should see what else is prohibited on China's Internet.

In a December 30, 2010 statement, Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office, announced that there would be no stopping its campaign against material it deemed obscene.

First, they came for my neighbor's copy of On Golden Blonde, and I did nothing.

Chen's department oversees the Internet in China. They claim to have examined the content of 1.79 million websites and deleted 350 million articles, pictures and videos; they shut down 60,000 websites and rounded up 4,965 people, 1,332 of whom received "criminal punishment" with 58 jailed for five years or more.

In case you're worried your favorite websites might not be sexy enough to be blocked in China, you're in for some good news.

China already blocks Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. Personally, I try to block Facebook out of my brainpan as much as possible, but my inner Big Brother is not as chillingly efficient as China's militant Internet department.

According to Reuters, Chen stated, "(…) our campaign has not come to a stop. This will be a long battle."

"As long as there are people with bad motives who want to spread violent or pornographic information, we will have to continue our campaign to resolutely crack down on the spread of such information."

It was not reported whether or not Chen was maniacally stroking a fluffy white cat from a fortified bunker as he said this, but it's not difficult to imagine, all things considered.

China's not having a good time with the Internet, and it's not just that they don't like the way "MILF" is spelled.

How are they finding all these dirty, dirty websites? Probably user data requeststo companies who sell user information. Yet in a white paper published by the government, The Internet Society of China issued The Measures for Encouraging the Reporting of Pornographic and Vulgar Information on the Internet and Mobile Media in January 2010.

The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications said that it paid out about 526,000 yuan ($81,964) to 516 informers and that the "spread of pornography has been effectively curbed and the Internet further purified."

It's been a banner year for Internet censorship in China.

2009 was slow in comparison, China only shut down over 15,000 websites in 2009 for allegedly having porn or "obscene" material.

It was a year in which China's General Administration of Press and Publication shut down another 136,000 non-registered websites and deleted more than 1.5 million pages ("pieces of bad information"). 1,580 were people convicted for allegedly producing and spreading pornography, facing jail terms of up to 10 years.

Now, some of you may be head over heels with the idea of ejecting porn sites into the jet black of cyberspace.

That's fine. I live in a world where there is room for you, too.

I just won't stand there saying nothing while you start gathering up kindling to burn witches for heresy.

The girls may look hot tied up on stakes, but I'd rather keep that dark fantasy one in which the scene ends with a pizza delivery guy if you know what I mean.

We're at a time when most people who have unrestricted Internet access consider it a right. A matter of freedom and free speech. Even pornographic information.

If that's worth anything to you, the trouble in China should concern you; freedom is about things we don't always like. Which is why we need to worry about governments using Internet porn to put people in jail.

It doesn't seem to bother Mark Zuckerberg one bit, but that dude's website sucks so bad, it's obscene anyway.

Does it bother you? Talk back in the comments and let me know.

Image: map of global Facebook connections by Paul Butler, with a very dark China.

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