World News

China makes arrests in Internet porn campaign

Customers use computers inside an Internet cafe in Shanghai in this recent photo from January 5, 2009. China has launched a crackdown on websites as the country enters a politically sensitive year, with officials accusing search engines including Baidu and Google of spreading pornography and vulgarity. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have arrested 28 suspects in an expanding crackdown on Internet pornography that authorities vowed will be no “flash in the pan,” official media said Friday.

The campaign to scrub the country’s Internet of “vulgar” content has so far resulted in 29 criminal cases and police have ordered the removal of 46,000 pornographic and other “harmful” items from websites, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The report said the 28 suspects arrested in the campaign included 4 men in their twenties who ran the “Midnight Prostitute Call” website from eastern China. They also included two men accused of using a video chat service to defraud customers.

China’s government has conducted numerous censorship efforts targeting porn, online drug sellers and political critics in recent years, but the latest crackdown comes after official warnings of rising social unrest as the economy slows. The country claims nearly 300 million registered Internet users.

“A principal of the Special Operation Office for the Crackdown on Online Porn and Lewd Content said the crackdown was not ‘flash in the pan’, and it would be followed up with more activities,” Xinhua said.

The government has also extended the crackdown to include “vulgar” content in mobile phone games, online novels and radio programs, Xinhua also reported.

The campaign has already seen Google, Baidu and other major websites given a public dressing down for not being quick enough to wipe targeted content. Outspoken blogging portals have been shut down for posting “politically harmful information.”

The Internet crackdown has been called by critics another step in the Communist Party’s battle to stifle dissent in a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the 20th anniversary of the government’s bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Reporting by Ian Ransom and Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie and Sugita Katyal