As 2010 drew to a close Beijing announced it had shut down over 60,000 Chinese pornographic websites the government considers offensive, capping off a year of new website restrictions imposed on the largest Internet population in the world.
State-run Xinhua news agency reported last week that 350 million pieces of indecent images, videos and articles were eliminated in 2010. The anti-pornography investigation is not limited to commercial websites, but includes sites that allow for user sharing. Offensive content shared via mobile-to-mobile device is also part of the investigation and has produced some arrests.
Nearly 2,200 criminal cases were opened involving about 5,000 people who violated Chinese law by disseminating pornography via the Internet or mobile device. Many were turned in by fellow citizens seeking a reward offered by the state for tip-off information.
Internet access in China is already one of the most censored in the world, blocking websites and images that contain politically sensitive topics, such as the Dali Lama and support for imprisoned Chinese journalists. This latest campaign goes beyond pornography with reports of political and user-generated content also being taken offline.
Beijing has restrictions in place for several popular western sites, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr. Earlier in 2010 Google pulled its Internet search services out of China due to ongoing censorship concerns.
The Chinese government decided recently that Internet phone calls using non-state VOIP services, like Skype, are illegal. The move appears to be aimed at safeguarding the profits of state-controlled telecom carriers rather than policing content.
Heading into 2011, Beijing, vows to continue the crusade to control Internet content and digital services. Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, assured a news conference last week, “This will be a long battle.”
China’s Internet penetration spread to an estimated 450 million users last year, larger than any other country’s Internet population.