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China's Anti-Pornography Crackdown Nets Much More Than Porn

Chinese authorities have shut down more than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts said to contain pornographic content since the country launched a campaign to crack down on online pornography in April. 

According to state press agency Xinhua, the “Cleaning the Web 2014”, which will run until November, will conduct thorough check-ups on websites, search engines, mobile application stores, Internet TV USB sticks, and set-top boxes. All online texts, pictures, videos and advertisements with pornographic content will be deleted, and websites will be shut down or have their administrative license revoked if they are found to produce or spread pornographic information.

During the campaign, more than 20 literary websites have been unexpectedly closed. Offbeat China reports that book-sharing sites hosting “slash fiction” material have been shut down, including one of the country’s most popular self-publishing sites, jjwxc.net.

Slash fiction is fan-written literature that focuses on sexual encounters between characters of the same sex. In China, the genre is usually written by young, straight women who call themselves “rotten women.” Their stories usually focus on sexual relationships between men. About 20 female slash fiction writers have reportedly been detained by police.

China has shut down over 100 websites during the crackdown. (Picture from )

China shut down over 100 websites as part of Internet clean-up drive. Image from letscorp.net

Chinese web portal Sina.com, owned by media giant Sina Corp, has been suspended from publishing on the Internet and disseminating audio and video for allegedly hosting pornographic content online. Sina posted an apology to netizens and the public in a statement that says the company will carefully observe the authorities’ decision and will more strictly supervise its content:

Sina is willing to work with other website operators to make vigorous efforts in the country's anti-porn campaign and create a clean Internet environment.

The campaign has trigged lots of skepticism. Many suspect that it is just another excuse to crack down on Internet speech. Many of those born in the 1980s and '90s, who were the “protected subject” of the campaign, are joking that they are “finally experiencing the Cultural Revolution.” 

Chinese blogger Zhang Jialong wrote that the campaign is more “about going after rumors” using the anti-pornography campaign as a front:

In other words, it’s about ensuring that party organs, and not the Chinese grassroots, have the loudest voice on the country’s internet. 

According CEO Zhang Yi from Aimei consulting company as quoted by paopao.com, the crackdown is not only related to online porn; some websites that “distorted mainstream values in the society” have been shut down. The definition of “distorting mainstream values” is vague, which has helped expand the target. For example, a popular question and answer platform on Sina's site, called “iasksina”, was shut down.

Chinese women's rights activist Ye Haiyan commented:

此类“误伤“无疑反映了中国式运动的简单粗暴,作为执法者,在运动中总显得无能与懒惰,同时亦体现了中国法治精神的虚空。

Such “friendly fire” undoubtedly reflects the crudeness of Chinese-style movement and incompetence and laziness of law enforcement, but also embodies the emptiness of the rule of law in China.

Chinese sex researchers led by Dr. Chen Yaya and Fang Gang published a proposal on their blog on Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging platform, that says:

我国曾多次进行“网络扫黄”,投入大量人力物力,但令人失望的是,这些成本高昂的工作收效甚微,网络色情资讯从未减少而是越来越多。在某个时间段加大网络扫黄力度,确能在短期内减少网民可接触到的色情资讯,但从长远来看功效甚微。此外,还可能出现因为判断失误,过当处罚的情况,甚至与性的自由表达权相冲突。

Our country has conducted an “online crackdown” several times and has invested a lot of manpower and resources into it, but it is disappointing that this costly work has little success, online pornography has not shrunk but has increased. In a short time, it can indeed reduce users’ exposure to pornography, but in the long run the effect is minimal. Due to errors of judgment and improper punishment, it may even be in conflict with the right of freedom of expression.

The proposal urges a more reasonable model:

修订相关法律法规中关于“淫秽、色情”的定义,实行电影、出版物分级制度,避免“扫黄”范围扩大化,保障性的自由表达权;完善青少年性教育。

To amend the definition of “obscenity, pornography ” in relevant laws and regulations, the implementation of films, a publication classification system, to avoid  the expansion of “porn crackdowns” to protect freedom of expression; to improve sex education among youth.

  • https://plus.google.com/104344063239607373093 SilverJediShade

    strange that there would be a crack down on porn since enforcement of the one child policy must cause pent up stress that can’t be healthy

  • joel_bee

    the cartoon maybe needs an explanation. the stars are being swept away because they’re yellow, and “yellow” in chinese also means “salacious”.

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