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Beijing hits out at Google in web porn crackdown

Beijing hits out at Google in web porn crackdown

China's government has accused the country's leading internet search engines and web portals, including Google, of threatening public morals by carrying pornographic and vulgar content.

While Beijing regularly launches web censorship campaigns, the new crackdown is the first to target large companies such as Google and Baidu, the former's homegrown rival that leads the Chinese search market. In the previous campaign, a year ago, officials accused only small and little-known sites of carrying unhealthy content.

The 19 sites cited by the government yesterday included Sina, Sohu, Tencent and NetEase - among the country's biggest web portals and each run by overseas listed companies - and blog-hosting websites and forums such as Tianya.

The move comes as the internet is being used to organise a number of challenges to the political leadership in Beijing. Censors are currently blocking reporting and debate about Charter 08, an appeal for democratic reform that has attracted signatures from hundreds of prominent intellectuals. Other forms of dissent, such as demands for compensation in China's poisoned milk scandal, have also been organised via the web.

The government directed criticism yesterday at content that could be damaging to children or young people. Search results for Google and Baiduincluded "large amounts of pornographic links, [and] after notification from the complaint centre, the site did not take effective countermeasures", the State Council Information Office (SCIO) said in a joint statement with other agencies.

People familiar with the internet industry in China said the move would serve as a powerful reminder of the self-censorship authorities expect from portals.

Cai Mingzhao, a senior official at the SCIO, said some websites had exploited legal loopholes. He warned of stern punishment.

The sites targeted yesterday appeared to have been caught by surprise. A manager at Sohu said: "We find this extremely strange and are still figuring out what exactly happened."

Chen Tong, editor-in-chief at Sina, China's leading news portal, said there was no point in being surprised about the crackdown.

Baidu and Google did not respond to requests for a comment.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.


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