BEIJING, July 22 (Reuters) - China will crack down on smartphone apps featuring pornography and obscene content, the government said on Tuesday, the latest move in an official campaign to 'clean the Internet'.
The ruling Communist Party has since last year intensified a campaign against what it calls 'rumours' and 'pornography' online due to their harmful effect on the country.
Critics, however, say the crack down aims to quash anti-government discourse.
The anti-porn campaign targeting mobile apps will encourage companies to remove the offensive material themselves, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on its website.
China will also "enhance abilities to discover pornographic and obscene apps" and "improve the process of punishment", MIIT said.
China has the world's biggest online population, with 632 million Internet users, and the majority - 83 percent as of the end of June - use smartphones to access the web, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre.
Mobile messaging apps are widely used, with Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat one of the most popular in China. Users of WeChat say there are chat groups dedicated to sharing lewd animated clips and images. Tencent declined to comment.
Other Chinese social networking and messaging apps include Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's Laiwang, Xiaomi's Miliao, and Yixin, jointly developed by China Telecom Corp and NetEase Inc. (Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Miral Fahmy)