Media News

China targets big websites in Internet crackdown

BEIJING, Jan 5 (Reuters) - China has launched a nationwide crackdown against websites that officials accused of spreading pornography and threatening youth morals, including the big search engines Google GOOG.O and Baidu BIDU.O.

China’s Ministry of Public Security and six other government agencies announced the campaign at a meeting on Monday, state television news reported. Officials were shown taking away digital equipment from one office.

The report said officials “decided to launch a nationwide campaign to clean up a vulgar current on the internet and named and exposed a large number of violating public morality and harming the physical and mental health of youth and young people.”

Baidu dominates the Chinese web search and advertising market with an estimated two-thirds of the audience. Google Inc, the global market leader, is a distant number two in China.

China’s ruling Communist Party is wary of threats to its grip on information and public mores and has launched many such censorship campaigns before.

But the naming of the big companies and the number of ministries involved suggest this crackdown could be more sweeping than past ones.

Cui Jin, a public relations official for Google in mainland China and Sun Yao, Baidu’s PR representative, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters, both saying they were unaware of the announcement.

Reporting by Chris Buckley and Michael Wei, Editing by Dean Yates