UPDATE 1-China orders Google China to block access to porn
(Recasts on order against Google)
BEIJING, June 19 (Reuters) - China's Internet watchdog on Friday ordered Google (GOOG.O) to stop overseas websites with "pornographic and vulgar" content from being accessed through its Chinese-language search engine.
The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre had told Google to "make immediate changes" and clean up the content available through its search engine (www.google.cn), the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The targetting of Google illustrates the difficulties faced by foreign Internet firms doing business in the world's largest online market while avoiding charges of censorship.
In an emailed statement, Google said it met with government officials to discuss the problem of "pornographic content and material that is harmful to children on the web in China".
"We are undertaking a thorough review of our service and taking all necessary steps to fix any problems with our results. We believe we have addressed a large majority of the problem results," the statement said.
The order came a day after Chinese state television blasted Google and the centre denounced it for allowing "foreign Internet pornographic information".
The Chinese government recently ordered all new personal computers to carry Green Dam filtering software designed to block pornographic Internet content from July 1, leading to fears China was using its campaign to protect children from "unhealthy" content as a way of tightening censorship. [ID:nPEK51915]
Google has been "ordered to comply with China's laws and regulations and completely filter pornographic content to prevent pornographic material from entering from overseas", Xinhua said.
The order coincides with plans by the city of Beijing to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers to monitor the Internet.
The volunteers would be asked to report to the authorities if they came across "lewd" content or find Internet users exhibiting "uncivilised behaviour" when surfing the Internet, Xinhua said.
Earlier this week, local media reported the city is developing its own Internet filtering software. That software, like Green Dam, is billed as a measure against pornography.
"The aim is to shield the minors from unwanted harm they might be subjected to on the Internet," an official surnamed Zhou from the Capital Enhancement Committee Office was quoted as saying.
Some volunteers would be placed in Internet cafes to stop minors from entering and to monitor content, he said.
China already employs an army of Internet censors, who identify websites to be blocked and monitor chat rooms for any content deemed inappropriate or subversive. (Reporting by Kirby Chien, Lucy Hornby and Yu Le, Editing by Dean Yates)