China hires porn watchdogs as crackdown intensifies

Nationwide campaign has closed down 110 websites and 3,300 social network accounts

A woman looks at a Weibo advertisement  in Beijing. Over 3,300 accounts on the China-based social networking site have been shut down as part of a campaign called “Cleaning the Web 2014”.

A woman looks at a Weibo advertisement in Beijing. Over 3,300 accounts on the China-based social networking site have been shut down as part of a campaign called “Cleaning the Web 2014”.

 

Online companies in China are hiring young people of solid character to act as pornography watchdogs, weeding out morally suspect images of young women in bikinis or people having sex.

A nationwide crackdown on pornography, a campaign known as “Cleaning the Web 2014”, has shut 110 websites shut down and 3,300 accounts on China-based social networking site Weibo.

On the Anhui province website, ahlife.com, Liu Chunqi, a police officer who works as a “sexual content appraiser” in the city of Harbin, said it was a dreadful job.

“When I do the appraisal, all I am thinking about is whether the content meets the standards for sexual content, or whether the content in the video or disc is publicly advertising sex, or showing sex. Some people think it’s just watching porn, but it’s not. Sometimes it makes me throw up.”

Sina Corp has been handed the toughest punishment yet in the country’s latest crackdown on porn, after Beijing authorities fined the online giant 5.1 million yuan (€590,000) and removed some of its publication licences. Sina owns Sina Weibo, China’s version of the banned Twitter, and the fine comes days after Weibo went public in an IPO in New York.

Online censorship is a tricky issue in China, home to the world’s largest online population. The government likes the business benefits of the internet, but dislikes the platform it offers to people who think differently from the ruling Communist Party.

Rights activists say the porn crackdown is just another excuse to limit freedom of expression as part of the vast system of online control known as the Great Firewall of China. The “GFW”, which bans Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other overseas websites, also bans politically sensitive words and aims to stamp out dissent. The internet, consequently, is slow and often very annoying when trying to do even routine tasks.


Jail sentence
The posting of porn can lead to jail sentences of up to three years, and those who make more than €30,000 from the busines can be jailed for life.

According to local media sites, more than 4,000 people have applied for the job of appraising sexual content. They must watch for sleeveless T-shirts, suggestive shorts and bikinis, and even contact between animated characters.

“A dozen major internet companies including Baidu, Tencent and Kingsoft opened positions for sexual content appraiser in mid-April, which received overwhelming response on the internet and over 4,000 applications,” Want China Times reported.

The campaign is due to last until November, shutting portals with obscene content and locking up those criminally accountable, said Zhou Huilin, deputy director of the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.