Date
15 December 2017
Sina has found itself caught in the central government's crackdown on pornography. Photo: AFP
Sina has found itself caught in the central government's crackdown on pornography. Photo: AFP

Is porn crackdown more than skin-deep censorship?

If the latest crackdown on internet pornography reveals anything, it’s that even the biggest are not beyond the central government’s reach. This month more than 100 websites were affected, including market leader Sina Corp. which had its internet content provider license suspended for spreading pornographic material.

It’s a move that underscores the uncertainty of operating an online business on the mainland and illustrates how a government desire to tighten internet content rules can have a direct effect on the bottom line.

The offending Sina content, according to Xinhua, comprised 20 articles and four videos that contained “lewd and pornographic content”. “As a result, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television revoked the company’s two crucial licenses on internet publication and audio and video dissemination,” Xinhua said.

The two licenses allow Sina to publish online articles and literature as well as video content on their website, which means Sina may have to cease offering the two lucrative categories of content. Online novels and videos are some of the fastest-growing segments, drawing readers and advertising dollars. On April 14, Sina Reader, a large online book portal, said that it was temporarily shutting down for an internal investigation because of suspicions that some content posted by users violated a “clean online environment”. Two weeks later and it‘s still not clear if Sina needs to cut off these business units altogether or whether the company can apologize for its errant ways and keep the licenses.

Porn is ubiquitous on mainland websites and the government has launched crackdown after crackdown to eradicate the content. Xinhua says that this crackdown, which will continue until November, is in response to “calls from people in all walks of life”.

While it’s true that pornography is illegal in China, some overseas critics suggest that the campaigns against obscene material are more of an attempt to tighten the official grip on the internet and impose broader censorship. On the surface, porn may be the focus but the real aim could be to ensure that the government has the loudest voice online.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

SK

EJ Insight writer

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