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      China Is Shutting Down Porn Websites En Masse

      China Is Shutting Down Porn Websites En Masse China Is Shutting Down Porn Websites En Masse China Is Shutting Down Porn Websites En Masse
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      China

      China Is Shutting Down Porn Websites En Masse

      By Kayla Ruble

      The internet in China is undergoing a serious spring cleaning, thanks to a new government initiative aimed at ridding it of pornography. Since launching the “Cleaning the Web 2014” campaign in April, Chinese authorities have shut down more than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts said to contain pornographic and vulgar material.

      The anti-pornography drive was developed by the Central Propaganda Department (CPD) as a response to what the government has deemed a spread in pornography, which is illegal in China. The CPD, China’s ministry in charge of censorship, said that the campaign will run through November and will focus on investigating “pornographic and vulgar information” on the web.

      “Disseminating pornographic information online severely harms the physical and mental health of minors, and seriously corrupts social ethos,” state news agency Xinhua quoted the State Internet Information Office as saying.

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      According to Xinhua, all websites, search engines and mobile app stores will be monitored for lewd material under the state’s microscope. Not even set-top boxes and televisions connected to the internet will be immune from scrutiny during the cleanup campaign.

      Any texts, photos, or videos will be deleted if they are found to contain pornographic material, and websites will be shut down if they are producing or spreading pornography. Xinhua reports that officials believe the effort is “crucial” to internet development and comes in the name of creating a “healthy cyberspace.”

      According to numbers released by the Chinese government, authorities have so far shuttered 110 websites and more than 3,300 accounts on various social networking sites under the anti-pornography drive. Additionally, upwards of 200,000 pornographic items have been deleted.

      But the campaign has left a lot of room for skepticism, especially with the CPD acting as the gatekeeper of the crackdown.

      “Interpretation of the actual meaning of ‘pornographic and vulgar information,’ of course, rests entirely with the CPD,” Chinese blogger Zhang Jialong wrote in a post published by Foreign Policy.

      Zhang is skeptical the true motives behind the government campaign. In a recent column about the subject, he 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,” Zhang wrote.

      Jason Ng, a research fellow specializing in censorship in China at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, believes that the government chose to crack down on pornography because it’s an easy target, and a subject that’s difficult to defend. These campaigns are fairly common, he said, and officials assume that any outrage against the move is unlikely to gain broad public support.

      “Citizens aren’t going to be up in arms about cracking down on pornography,” Ng told VICE News.

      By choosing a less controversial subject, Chinese authorities can use the crackdown to flex their authority and set an example that they’re monitoring the web. Ng said this lines up with President Xi Jinping’s efforts to project power, especially on the internet.

      “It's a warning for those who traffic not just pornography, but other sorts of sensitive material,” Ng said. “It's an effective thing to remind people that people are watching what you're doing on the internet.”

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      One of the unexpected areas on the web in China taking a hit from the anti-porn campaign are literary websites, specifically those deemed by the government to be posting erotic material. According to Zhang, more than 20 literary websites have either been closed or investigated. He highlights Sweet Potato Net, which he writes is “an inoffensive fantasy fiction site.”

      But it’s not just run-of-the-mill literature sites that are being shut down. 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 literature is fan-fiction that is focused 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. Interestingly enough, one of the more popular fan-fiction couples being targeted by authorities is detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner Watson.

      Because of the government campaign, approximately 20 female slash fiction writers have reportedly been detained by police officers. Concerns have surfaced in the fan-fiction community that these cleanup efforts may reflect a broader issue of discrimination against same-sex relationships.

      “This is not cleaning the cyberspace. This is pure discrimination. I may never see a rainbow flag fly above China in my lifetime,” a female slash fiction fan wrote to Offbeat China.

      Offbeat China also reported that one of the officers running the efforts against slash fiction called the literary genre: “essentially pornographic novels that promote homosexuality.”

      While Ng said it is definitely an interesting issue to come out of the government campaign, he does not view the fan fiction crackdown as indicative of a larger government policy against homosexuality.

      “It’s just another issue swept in under the immorality umbrella,” Ng said. “Essentially anything weird or strange gets caught up in it.”

      Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB

      Image via Flickr

      Topics: human rights, china, asia, internet freedom, porn, internet rights, porn ban, central propaganda department, slash fiction, cleaning the web 2014. jason ng

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