Jan 07

Chinese Government publishes list of “vulgar” websites and information

Written by Arctosia on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 at 10:48 pm
Filed under:-mini-posts, Analysis, culture, General, politics, technology | Tags:, , ,
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For many Chinese website operators, 2009 didn’t start very well. China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre, a semi-government agency, has published a list of websites which contain “vulgar and unhealthy information” deemed to be harmful to the country’s youth. The list (in Chinese) can be found here.

The interesting thing about this list is that it covered majority of the most popular websites in China. Google was ranked number one “vulgar” site (see, e.g., NYTimes article), followed by Baidu and Sina.

I’m very confident that every Chinese netizen have visited at least one of such vulgar websites. I myself must have visited at least 75% of the websites listed and would probably be diagnosed as psychotic under the Chinese guideline.

Most of the Chinese netizens are very familiar with such Internet Cleansing campaign as it was repeated many times in the past decade. Most such cleansing have been justified under the banner of “please thinking of the children” (which really is a logical fallacy), because it’s usually the adult internet users who are the real targets.

So have these campaigns worked? Well, the funny thing is, thanks to the newly onlined Xinhua Search engine, an official search engine intended to censor vulgar information, if you know the right keyword, you can find as many “vulgar” information as you can expect to find in most commercial websites. I can list you an endless list of examples of vulgar information that can be found in Chinese official news websites like the Xinhua Net: this, this, this ,or this, and the list goes on (I don’t know the rating used for this site, so if I exceeded it, my apologies), and yet they were never criticized by anyone.

Basic economics dictates that it is very difficult to censor out all those “unhealthy” stuffs if somebody really wants to find them, as there is a market for it.

As a regular user of the most vulgar website (Google), I cannot recall not even once that Google returns me “unhealthy” information, unless I deliberately searched for it (only on rare occasions, haha) – not to mention Google has a optional filter that censors images and texts, which is very effective in my opinion. Therefore it is hard for me not jump to the conclusion that the accusation of search engines means that creators of the list, themselves deliberately searched “vulgar” information in order to produce the list.

So now who’s unhealthy and vulgar?

In my view, “protect the future generation” probably isn’t the original purpose of all those internet cleansing campaigns.  The campaigns by themselves are kind of the ridiculous: find me another country on this planet which labels the absolutely majority of its netizen population as “internet addicted” and “vulgar”?

Most of the Chinese parents, including mine, are not as tech-savvy as their children.  Some don’t even use the Internet.  TV and newspaper are still their major source information, which are still largely controlled by state.

Strangely, this generation is in fact the targeted audience of such campaign. I have met too many Chinese parents who didn’t hesitate to use corporal punishment to their children just because they logged onto the Internet without parents’ knowledge, because in their mind, they have associated the Internet with evilness.

This last generation to still distrust the Internet are in their 40-50s (or even older), financially stable, and now command the echelon of power in China.  It is this potentially powerful political force to which the recent edicts sounding the alarms of vulgarity are directed.

Now the long demonisation of the Internet is starting to making sense to me….

Note from admin: Thanks Allen’s help for editing this post.

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69 Responses to “Chinese Government publishes list of “vulgar” websites and information”

  1. BMY Says:

    I think you are overreacted and your article is misleading.

    The title is “Chinese Government publishes list of “vulgar” websites and information”but the list was not published by any Chinese government department or ministry. It was just on a website, who claim to(may) have the support from the government. The list is not a official government document.

    There are only few rehab centres among 1.3 billion to treat some “internet addicts” then you lable the method as “Chinese guide line”. The lists says those sites have “lots of ” (dosen’t say the percentage of the contents)vulgar content but you concluded it says those sites are vulgar sites.

    Your article says”The campaigns by themselves are kind of the ridiculousfind me another country on this planet which labels the absolutely majority of its netizen population as “internet addicted” and “vulgar”? ”
    Are you able to tell how you concluded that China(or Chinese government) labels majority of its netizen population as “internet addicted”? Because of few rehab centres ? Because of one website lists all other major sites?

    Your article says”Basic economics dictates that it is very difficult to censor out all those “unhealthy” stuffs if somebody really wants to find them, as there is a market for it.”

    Dose this also apply to street drugs, guns etc? Should we all stop worrying about them?

    If the compain is targeting parents and I don’t see why parents need to specialized with internet in order to keep a eye on their children’s sufing habits?

    The list dose not define what contents are vulgar. the kind of pics you linked on xinhuanet can be found on many of other traditional medias and you assumed they would be “vulgar”. Also I would like to know how you concluded Xinhuanet has never been criticized by anyone.

    Because of some parental control then you concluded “because in their mind, they have associated the Internet with evilness”. I think there is a difference between evilness and dangerous

    Because many people think internet is dangerous and that’s why internet content filtering is a big business. just have a look at symantec ,surfcontrol ,checkpointfirewall etc and they all make good money from governments and corporate world . Every company I worked for have spent a lot of money on internet content filtering- email filter, web filter etc and have employee internet usages policies. If adults in the corporate world and government agencies have to be “protected” from the internet then I can’t see anything wrong if there is a campaign to “protect” the youth. the un-commie Australia government had a campaign and encourage parents to install internet filters on their home computers to protect Australian families online.

  2. Charles Liu Says:

    Great, now that the Junior high kids all know where to get smut, more will skip class to hang out at net bars.

    All the smut sites listed are shaking with their pants around their ankle, especially all that “未采取有效措施” threat from net.china 😎

    BTW, I just reported smut on Xinhua.

  3. LK Says:

    I completely agree with BMY.

    (1) I don’t see how this China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre can be regarded as “a semi-government agency”, since the CIIRC on its website clearly claims it is sponsored by a non-governmental organization. Neither is it financed/funded by the government, but rather “supported by the membership fee and donation”. The following two quotes are excerpts from the CIIRC site:

    “China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre (CIIRC) is sponsored by the Internet Information Service Commission of the Internet Society of China, a non-governmental organization registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China.”

    “Internet Society of China is a nationwide self-regulatory industry organization. The Internet Information Service Commission is an independent commission under the Society, with more than 170 most influential websites in China as members, and is supported by the membership fee and donation.”

    (2) Sorry Arctosia, your four Porn examples in my view are not porn or at least not obvious porn. I find them more educational and maybe even helpful than most of typical porn videos in adult video stores. Apparently, you set a higher bar than I do or “the Chinese government” in your definition.

    (3) As a non-government organization, CIIRC’s campaign again pornography in my view does not differ much from anti-drunk-driving, or anti-drugs/guns.

  4. Charles Liu Says:

    LK @ 3, WOW – if 300 intellectuals sign something and China’s constitution is toast, 170 influentual websites certainly are entitled to get rid of some smut.

    Arctosia “not even once that Google returns me “unhealthy” information” – Goto Google Images and search for “bambi” (check out bottom of page 3).

    And yes, the Internet is evil.

  5. Arctosia Says:

    @Charles Liu
    Naughty:) But you know, I needed to turn the Google SafeSearch off first before I can see the picture… If you really don’t want to see them, I consider tools provided by most major search engines suffice.

  6. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Arctosia:
    interesting. But I agree with BMY to a point. This CIIRC is officially an NGO, though supported by various PRC government ministries. Still a stretch to say this list is government sanctioned. However, Charles Liu seems to be the resident fact-checker on this blog who eats NGO’s for breakfast, so I wonder if he can find a paper trail of Hu Jintao stuffing yuan into the pocket of a CIIRC commissioner.

    That being said, what was the criteria or definition of “vulgar”? Is it like the definition for pornography: I don’t know how to describe it, but I know it when I see it… Or was it something a little more objective? Seems a stretch to say that Google is vulgar, it’s only a search engine for god sakes. If that’s the case, all the search engines should occupy the top spots on the list.

    This list is amusing…unless of course the government takes the cue and starts censoring/banning all the sites. Wouldn’t that be convenient…

  7. Arctosia Says:

    @LK, BMY

    First I consider CIIRC a semi-government agency. It is part of the Internet Society of China. The society that “advices” government on Internet policies, yeah, in fact its recent “advice” has just triggered an internet cleansing campaign jointly operated by several government ministries – M of Public Safety , M of Culture, M of industry and information technology …

    And most websites criticised in this campaign are actually long members of this society – needless to say more.

    I understand that to most of us(including myself), the pages I’ve lists aren’t necessarily porns – but this campaign isn’t about porns, it is about “vulgar” and “unhealthy” information, and according to a definition of “vulgar” information( in Chinese), said by a government official, those pages are more than qualified.

  8. S.K. Cheung Says:

    As I said, I’ve been inspired by Charles Liu, who likes to dig up dirt on NGO’s. So I grabbed me a shovel, just for poops and giggles…

    “Founded on June 10, 2004, China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre (CIIRC) is sponsored by the Internet Information Service Commission of the Internet Society of China, a non-governmental organization… ” (that’s straight from the CIIRC website)

    “Madame Hu Qiheng is Chairman of ISC, Vice President of China Association for Science and Technology, member of Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chair of Steering Committee for CNNIC, also a member of Advisory Committee for state informatization.Prior to joining ISC, she served as Deputy General and General Secretary, then Vice President of Chinese Academy of Science, she has been worked in the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, as researcher assistant, associate research professor and research professor, then Director of the Institute for 26 years.” – (this is from the Internet Society of China website)

    So then I googled (is that vulgar?) Hu Qiheng, and guess what I found…


    “Hu Qili (Former Standing Committee Member of the CCP’s Politburo;
    CCP Central Committee member)
    Sister: Hu Qiheng (Director, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy
    of Sciences; Vice president, Chinese Academy of Sciences)”

    So the chairman of the society that created the commission which sponsored the CIIRC which has labeled certain websites “vulgar”, just happens to be the sister of a CCP central committee member. Hmmm. I wonder what Charles would say….on a scale of egregiousness, is that better or worse than the author of Charter 08 having been the head of a body that took money from the NED?

    Admittedly, it’s not Hu Jintao stuffing yuan into pockets, but golly-gee it’s a start.

  9. Charles Liu Says:

    (Hey, SK, at least Hu isn’t trying to get us Americans to eliminate vulgarity…)

    Okay, here’s the meat of it:


    So what exactly is “vulgar internet content”, State Council Media Bureau Deputy Director Tsai Mingzhao tells the public, vulgar internet content mainly include, content contrary to stated law; including publicizing violence, murder, vicious abuse, insult and slander of others, content inticing youth to unhealthy thought, action, interfering with youth’s normal learning and living; including overtly or scantly displaying human sexual organ, sexual act, provacative or derogative sexual images, video, cartoon, essay; illegal sexual aid or STD treatment advertising, promotion of prostitution and inappropriate relationship, invasion of other’s privacy including accidental and voyeristic exposure, ill-intended disclosure of other’s private information; content contray to mainstream marital and family morals and value, including extra-marital relationship, one-night stand, wife swapping, etc.

    (Big thanks to NCiku for help on terms I’m unfamiliar with.)

  10. BMY Says:

    Thanks, Charles. I was just trying to translate but my English is poor.

    So I just can’t see anything wrong with the above definition of “vulgar internet content”. What’s the big deal if CIIRC(not Chinese government) has listed and suggested the major sites to clean up some “vulgar content” . I definitely want to make sure my kids stay away from those content. Maybe I am too old fashioned compare to Arctosia.

  11. FOARP Says:

    I just want to say how disappointed I am to see that, despite carrying death threats against Chinese intellectuals and accusing Mao of being a homosexual, Fool’s Mountain has failed to make the list. I expect all cadres to write a full self-criticism and promise to do better next year!

    More to the point, doesn’t this survey show that, far from being the guard against immoral content that it claims to be, the so-called “Golden Shield” is in fact pretty much only directed against material critical of the government?

  12. Arctosia Says:


    Don’t take people’s claims at face value. I agree that we need to protect our children, but most of the campaigns from the net nanny has little or nothing to do with that. They are just trying to appeal to your emotion to gain your support.

    CIIRC has just published a second series of “vulgar” websites. On the top of the list is MSN, followed by tom.com, and few places behind you can find myspace is also on the list. It is becoming more and more clear that this campaign has little to do with children but more of a gesture of showing “who’s the boss” to the these websites – if they are really that “vulgar”, there must be something wrong with ourselves as WE are the major audiences of these sites.

    About how to “protect” the children … I started to surf on the internet at a very early age (<10), maybe you can say I’m the generation which grew up on the Internet(Which also means I grew up with the net nanny). Long stories short, I made myself a senior member and sometimes webmaster of several kids sites before I’m no longer a kid. From my experiences, I think I’m more than entitled to tell you that, the net nanny never really cared about the well beings of young netizens. They were too busy dishing out business opportunities to the cohort consisting of their relatives and guanxi. All they produced were loads of services which nobody actually uses.

    The best children websites back then were built by for profit businesses. However, those sites were financially non-viable, without support from the net nanny, most died soon after or when the site operators’ major businesses went down.

    Well,all I want to say is, your children are yours, not the net nanny’s, so don’t expect them to do your job.

    In every scary story that involves how the internet turns good kid bad, there must be at least some outside factors like divorced parents behind it. From my experiences, what really important is education and a healthy, working mutual relationship between parents and kids. Censorship never worked.

  13. ChinkTalk Says:

    I don’t know what is the true intend of this anti-“vulgar” thing proposed by the Chinese authorities, but one thing is certain that there is a human rights issue when children are being sexually abused shown on the internet and women being forced into making degrading sexual videos. It is interesting to note that it is reported that a great number of British and German men go to Thailand for sex with young boys. They used to go to Brazil in the 80’s. I remember a friend went to Brazil in the 80’s and she was telling me how disgusted she was seeing large number of European men, mainly British and Germans, hiring young boys for sex. In Canada, we have laws against Canadians who engage in pornography involving children even when committed overseas. I think the Chinese are perhaps in their bumbling ways trying to do the same; but perhaps the main goal is to prevent the corruption of the young people. I find it ridiculous to suggest that it is a masked way for the Chinese government to control freedom of expression. China is already an authoritarian state; they can make direct laws that say if you screw around with the state, you are dead. Plain and simple. They do not have to sneak around like the British men who might be the ones that champion human rights around the world and then go to a third world country like Thailand or Brazil to have sex with little boys.

  14. FOARP Says:

    @Chinktalk – Everyone knows that nasty pieces of crap from many different countries go to those countries where they can indulge in such monstrous behaviour without punishment, there is no country on earth which does not harbour such people. Paedophilia is a problem which affects all countries, and your attempt to make out that it is “British men who might be the ones that champion human rights around the world” who engage in this is firstly a childish attempt to insult me and other British people, and secondly a deeply ignorant and stupid thing to say, and extremely offensive to anyone who has had their lives touched by this scourge.

    I know better than to ask for an apology on a forum like this, but you might try to think exactly what your words look like to anyone who has a friend or loved one who suffered abuse as a child.

  15. ChinkTalk Says:

    FOARP – if I have offended you, I apologize. But not to the British and German men who prey on children. And I hope you’d agree with me.

  16. Allen Says:

    @BMY #1,

    Interesting debate about whether it is the gov’t that published the list. The NY Times article linked in the post had a title “China Criticizes Google and Others on Pornography” and started with:

    The Chinese government broadened its recent effort to limit pornography on the Internet by criticizing 19 Internet companies by name on Monday, including the two market leaders in China, Google and Baidu.

    A statement posted on a government-run news site said the Ministry of Public Security and six other government agencies would work together “to purify the Internet’s cultural environment and protect the healthy development of minors.” A similar statement had been issued on Dec. 5, but attracted little attention.

    So did the NY Times get the bit about government action completely wrong?

  17. FOARP Says:

    @Chinktalk – Apology accepted. I remember a talk I went to back at the end of 2007 by the chief copyright counsel for Google where the issue of the necessity for controls on content were discussed. He said he favoured the death penalty for paedophiles, I am not a supporter of the death penalty, so I merely hope that they get punished to the maximum extent of the law, if in some countries that is death, then so be it.

    Do internet controls prevent paedophilic content being displayed on the internet? It would seem not – the vast majority of people engaged in the traffic of such content are caught through detective work, Operation Ore being a prime example. Websites that host content usually do their best to screen it out, but there is no saying how successful they are.

    Like I said, I really don’t believe that the ‘Golden Shield’ is directed at eliminating immoral internet content, if it is, it has not been very successful at all if this survey is correct. The only time I have ever encountered internet controls has been in relation to politically sensitive content, not immoral content, and I suspect that the vast majority of people are the same. Of course, I do not go looking for immoral content, but usually you find yourself coming across it in the form of pop-up adverts directing you to porn sites and so forth – I have never seen these blocked.

  18. Bodyguard Buggering Dictator! Says:

    @ Chinktalk 15

    Suggesting pedophilia in Thailand is primarily a British and German problem is ridiculous.

    Sorry, but it’s primarily Asian men who travel overseas especially to buy underage virgins to rape in hotel rooms.

  19. ChinkTalk Says:

    Bodyguard Buggering Dictator! Says:

    January 8th, 2009 at 9:05 pm
    @ Chinktalk 15

    Suggesting pedophilia in Thailand is primarily a British and German problem is ridiculous.

    Sorry, but it’s primarily Asian men who travel overseas especially to buy underage virgins to rape in hotel rooms.

    I have friends who are Thais and that is what they told me. They could be wrong and I am basing on what I have heard. And also a very good friend of mine who is a straight arrow told me the same thing when she went to Brazil in the 80’s. I do recognize the danger of generalization, like Asians are good in Math, I know that for myself, it is not true, but from my own personal dealings with British people, I have not found one that I can trust, not even in very minial matters. Of course, I am sure there are many Chinese people that have had very good trustful British friends and they certainly would come to their defence. But for me personally, I wish I can find one.

    You find your first statement to be ridiculous but the second to be acceptable, is there a certain bias on your part as well.

  20. Bodyguard Buggering Dictator! Says:

    My statements are based on my own first hand experiences of the sex industry in Asia, and on my reading of academic literature on the subject. Admittedly, my own experiences and reading have been mostly confined to the female side of the industry.

    I stand by what I say, and do not accept that my comments are biased.

    Japanese, Chinese and Korean sex tourists are the ones who pay big prices for underage virgins. They are not very visible because their activities are dubious enough to be kept out of sight, and in any case they are not much into public partying. In contrast, British and German sex tourists hang around in bars making a sleazy spectacle of themselves, but they mostly do so with older women who Asian sex tourists are not interested in. In general you will struggle to find underage girls in establishments that primarily have western customers. Meanwhile, underage girls abound in establishments primarily catering to Asian customers.

    Rather than bias, I’m bringing some facts to the discussion.

  21. ChinkTalk Says:

    Bodygurad Buggering Dictatior #20:





  22. Bodyguard Buggering Dictator! Says:

    I take it you don’t actually have anything to say Chinktalk?

  23. ChinkTalk Says:





    Need I say more.

  24. Anglo-German Pedophile and Human Rights Champion! Says:

    Mein Gott! I like this discussion!

    Please I have two questions. . .

    Where can I find the very young Chinese boy by Internet?

    Where can I join the organization that supports human rights in Tibet and protests the Chinese regime?

    Basically I like to screw the Chinese while protesting their government.

  25. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen #16:
    well, since Hu Qiheng is the chairperson that oversees the CIIRC, and she’s the sister of a CCP Central Committee member, certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to think that she’s doing the government’s bidding. Furthermore, the CIIRC does say it’s supported by various government ministries, despite its NGO-tag. So I think the NYT is bang-on.

  26. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BMY #10:
    I agree I have no problem with authorities trying to curtail “vulgar content”; in fact, they should go further and address identity theft and cyber-bullying while they’re at it. But how does their current list achieve their purported goals? Why is Google number 1 on the hit list? Does Google produce the vulgar content that we object to? It’s just a search engine for god sakes. So they’re not attacking the people who create the vulgar content, and they’re not attacking the scum that surf the net looking for that garbage. Instead, they want to shoot the messenger.

    But let’s look at that. How often have the people on this blog googled today to look for information? If they use this flimsy excuse to curb Google use, does that reduce “vulgar content”? Or does it simply reduce people’s access to information. Now match that with the modus operandi of the CCP. What do you think the real objective would be?

  27. Look! I Can Put Stupid Stuff on My Handle Too! Says:

    Look! This thing with putting stupid stuff on your handle to get a reaction is getting old.

  28. Bodyguard Buggering Dictator! Says:

    @ Look! I Can Put Stupid Stuff on My Handle Too! 26


    I think that was a real Anglo-German pedophile and human rights champion who likes to criticize China. According to Chinktalk those guys are all over the place!

    I also think the discussion is getting a self-righteous and way off topic. Lots of talk of ‘men who prey on children’, ‘women forced to make degrading sexual videos’ (err. . . I thought they usually got paid), death penalty for pedophiles* (castrate the bastards I say!), and so on.

    Maybe forget about images of pederasty and porn flicks involving non-consenting actresses (both clearly illegal rather than merely ‘vulgar’, and not at all easy to find), and discuss the ‘vulgarity’ issue?

    * Incidentally I have no real problem with pedophiles. I only have a problem with pederasts. If they keep their hands to themselves, where is the problem?

  29. BMY Says:

    @S.K.C #26,

    You missed my point. My #10 point was that I agreed the cleaning unhealthy content complain and my point was not about who should be on the list and who should be number1 and why and I have no opinion of that .You asked then I only can guess CIIRC choose the most influential sites as they occupy the most of the market and attract most of the audience.

    Your analyse about google is from a westerner’s point of view . It looks ridiculous that google is on the list . I thought the same when I saw this yesterday. But let’s think differently , if some political content could be filtered by google( China )and baidu out of search(we all know that), then some people would think why “vulgar” content can’t be filtered by search engines.

    BTW , if you want , you can do some research on sina.com , sohu.com, 163.com, which are also on the top of the list , to find out if there are some Chinese government’s political/financial influence behind those sites. That’s one of the reasons I don’t see CIIRC’s list a government document.

  30. BMY Says:

    @S.K.C #26

    “Now match that with the modus operandi of the CCP. What do you think the real objective would be?”

    CCP is not denying or hiding their political objects as you know. I don’t see why they hide the real object on this list.

  31. Charles Liu Says:

    BMY, GO/NGO are entitled to make/influence DOMESTIC policy. Hu Qiheng may be connected (Obama and Cheney are cousins) but her objective, whatever it is, is not trying to place undue foreign influence on America.

  32. Arctosia Says:

    Just an update. I just got a word that the well known right-wing blog site, bullog.cn has been taken down by the net nanny’s order.

    And just another example to help for people who don’t understand the political factors behind this campaign. If you watched Chinese current affairs closely, you should be able to recall that there was a similar campaign just in December last year (NY post article mentioned this as well). That campaign was more directly targeted at politically sensitive stuffs on both traditional and internet media.

    There was very little publicity on it – (why?) and it wasn’t too successful (why?). They were able to remove Jiang Yiping, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Southern Daily from her post, but once the net nanny takes her watchful eyes away from the websites, the business went on as usual, news and “rumours” unreported by traditional media continue to spread in online forums.

  33. Netizen K Says:

    If it were me, I wouldn’t block any blog.

    But the Chinese authorities get away with controlling things recently. I think it is because foreign media, anti-China activists and dissentants lost their credibility in the eye of the average Chinese. They need to change their approach.

  34. Think Ming! Says:

    Who are these ‘anti-China activists’ you lump together with ‘foreign media’ and ‘dissenters’?

    Was Coxinga an ‘anti-China activist’?

  35. Steve Says:

    I’d like to look at this technically rather than philosophically and get everyone’s thoughts. First let’s start with an analysis of the problem and possible solutions.

    The problem is defined as “vulgar and unhealthy information” deemed to be harmful to the country’s youth. That needs to be further defined so let’s see if we can agree on what it means with the information available to us. Who determines what is vulgar? Who determines what is unhealthy? If the CIIRC is only semi-governmental, is it also just advisory rather than policy? If a site is banned, doesn’t that go beyond “youth” to include everyone? If so, shouldn’t it be defined that way from the beginning?

    If sensitive political or religious websites in China are already censored by the Great Firewall, is it possible for that same Firewall to censor “vulgar” sites? These are usually photos rather than printed words but can be both, so is there a way to flag what’s out there? If China can censor FLG and sites critical of China’s government (as they are supposedly censoring information pertaining to Charter 08 right now), wouldn’t that be the easiest way to enforce the ban? If so, then the search engines wouldn’t have the responsibility to censor. After all, they are just a bunch of bots programmed to search the net and add on to the current listings; more of a mathematical formula rather than a judgmental process. They key on China’s side seems to me to establish a method of finding said websites, both in and outside the country, that would fall under this category. The key to this (and I don’t know enough about their methods to answer it) is whether the search engines are currently banning the political or religious sites, or whether the Great Firewall is doing it. I always thought it was the Great Firewall, since if you type the link directly; you are redirected not by a search engine but by the Firewall.

    The other method that can be used is to have the ISP censor the sites. I’m not sure how feasible that is, but it is a possible option.

    But stopping something like the Edison Chen photos or Chu Mei-feng video would be far more difficult. Once those photos and that clip got into the system, they were duplicated as quickly as they were banned and also passed forward via email and P2P. I think reduction rather than elimination is the more realistic option.

    That’s why I’m confused on why the onus is being put on the search engines rather than just using the Great Firewall to do it. The general term “vulgar and unhealthy information” is vague and hard to define. Of course it can apply to pornography, but it can also apply to a host of other things. Has this term been defined by the government? I can’t see who else could define it without coming under all sorts of criticism. But however it’s finally defined, the only way I can see to enforce the ban is to use one of the methods described above. I can’t see how search engines can police themselves to that extent with current technology. For me, the entire exercise is like trying to stop the flood by putting your finger in the dyke. There are just too many ways for the water to get through.

    Even with a ban in place, can’t proxy servers or VPN connections get around any ban? The last I heard, a VPN connection in Shanghai was going for around $40 US. I personally knew friends in China who used proxy servers to get whatever news they wanted. There are also ways to surf the net in anonymity, but most people aren’t capable of figuring them out.

    I know we have some very knowledgeable commenters when it comes to computers. Are there any other ways to censor that sort of information? Though they all have their limitations, will partial blockage still have the desired effect? Aren’t most kids more computer savvy than their elders??

  36. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BMY #29:
    “But let’s think differently , if some political content could be filtered by google( China )and baidu out of search(we all know that), then some people would think why “vulgar” content can’t be filtered by search engines.” – that’s a good point. But if the CCP can filter political content on google and baidu, and if they really wanted to filter vulgar content, then why don’t they just go out and do it? In fact, I would argue that, if CCP haven’t eliminated web vulgarity by now, it’s because they’ve had no interest in so doing. We know what they can do with filters if they put their minds to it.

    If my sister was the Chairperson overseeing the CIIRC, and I was a CCP central committee member, do you think I would go through various channels to apply influence? Or do you think maybe I’d just pick up the phone and call my sister? And that’s not even putting into question how the sister got to become chairperson to start with.

  37. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BMY #30:
    “CCP is not denying or hiding their political objects as you know.” – but in this day and age, i think even they would be a little hesitant to put further limits on Chinese netizens without some “excuse”. How thoughtful of CIIRC to try to supply one.

  38. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles:
    “NGO are entitled to make/influence DOMESTIC policy”- I hope you’re not saying that NGO’s can’t seek to influence the policies of multiple countries…take the Red Cross for example. I also hope you’re not saying that Cheney helped get Obama elected (unless he did so by purposely being an extraordinarily bad VP).

    I’m not saying/implying/insinuating that Hu Qiheng is trying to do anything in America. But I am saying/implying/insinuating that claims of this CIIRC list to be free of government influence to be a bit rich.

  39. BMY Says:

    @Aarctosia #32

    First of all, shutting down bullog.cn is stupid and conterproductive. And I agree Chinese goverment has compain of targeting political content. But to see everything is political is also not accurate.

    To use shutting down of bullog as a proof of the real object of the “anti-vulgar content” campaign is like to use the arresting of LiuXiaoBo to argue that campaign of “扫黄打黑“ are targeting political dissents. they have different campaign with different objects. You simply mix them up

  40. BMY Says:

    @S.K.C #36

    “If my sister was ……”

    I don’t deny there is influence. But the influence dose not qualify CIIRC’S list as a government document like this post suggested. I don’t see there is any need of hiding behind CIIRC. The list clearly says all of the sites on the list either didn’t take action or was acting too slow after CIIRC sent them reports. If that’s a official list from ministries , I would thought those sites dare not to do anything.

  41. FOARP Says:

    @BMY – Except officials use the presence of immoral material on the internet as an excuse to shut down websites which do not host immoral content – they call all such material “harmful”, as though something like Charter 08 were the same as pornography. However, the majority of websites blocked are blocked for political reasons. It is the government which conflates different types of subject matter, not those who protest censorship.

  42. sophie Says:

    I would like to add a couple of points here:

    1) This campaign is initiated by 7 ministries including the Ministry of Information Industry, the Ministry of Public Security, and the State Council Information Office. It’s clear in Chinese media. I show one here:



    2) I regard this campaign as an effort of regulation/law enforcement.

    You can find the details of the relevant law issued in 2004 here:

    Even for search engine sites, CIIRC published the Self-regulatory Norms of Refusing obscene, pornographic and harmful information by the Internet Search Engine Providers in December 22, 2004 (see CIIRC site ‘history’)

    The website companies know these regulations, but, they often try to cross the line or play in gray area in order to increase traffic.

    Chinese government often use campaigns to enforce regulations or laws once a while, such as ‘扫黄’. During these campaigns, people caught tended to receive heavier than usual penalties. Personally, I don’t like this. Law is law, we should follow it all the time and consistently. But, I am wondering if it’s due to the economic constraints – it needs resources to enforce law properly. Instead, the government uses this kind of campaigns from time to time as deterrence. There are also campaigns for encouraging certain good behaviour, such as ‘文明礼貌月’(March),’排队日’ (Nov. 11th)

    It’s not the first time for such campaign according to CIIRC site:

    April 22, 2006
    As part of the nationwide campaign of Clean Cyberspace, CIIRC sponsors a Public Day in Beijing when more than 100 websites interact with the public and deal with various enquiries for safer and healthier ways of using the Internet.

    July 16, 2004
    The focused action of combating obscene and pornographic websites.

    @ Arctosia
    You provided the close down of bullog.cn as an update for this thread, giving impression that the Chinese government is indeed using the crack down vulgar contents as an excuse for political oppression. But, from what I read so far, even the blog host Luo Yonghao didn’t say so. Isn’t it too early to conclude?

    CIIRC published its update on this campaign:

    So among 19 sites in the first list, 3 sites were deemed to have done a good job; 11 sites need to continue their clean up (CIIRC also pointed out which channels on their sites still have vulgar contents); 5 sites were criticized for their insufficient efforts.

  43. Netizen K Says:

    The question is not which site or blog is shut down for whatever purpose.

    The question is why the average Chinese support anti-porno campaigns. It is because they consider this is the government’s responsibility. If the government didn’t do it, they will consider it not doing its job.

  44. Arctosia Says:


    Don’t know if you are familiar with the internet censorship in China. The fact is, you’ll never get the formal confirmation you wanted if the net nanny shuts down a website for political reasons. From the government side the most you can get is through the FM spokesman “I don’t know the case you are referring to, but I can tell you that we manage the Internet in accordance with the law”.

    So will the website owner say it? Well then there’s a high chance that the website in question won’t see the light of day again.

    But There are a lot of indirect confirmations.

    1. Luo’s personal message for his MSN changed to “牛博被关掉了,目前老罗和黄斌的情绪很稳定” (Bullog closed down, Luo Yonghao and Huang Bin are both emotionally stable at the moment) a sarcasm on a government rhetoric.

    2.Several former bulloggers reopened their old/back up blogs. They confirmed the shut down but didn’t specify the cause – another strong hint.

    3. There are also direct confirmations from the blogsphere and close sources that the site was ‘forced to close’.

    If you are waiting for a direct confirmation, the chances are, you’ll never get it, well unless they’ve done things differently this time, who knows.

    @ BMY

    I didn’t mix them up, THEY did. I’ll still watching on how it develops, my guess is we’ll soon see BSPs and websites with “interactive features” required to clean up the “vulgar” contents published by users. In fact I’ve already seen a blog white as a white paper forced to remove “vulgar contents”.

  45. sophie Says:


    ‘And just another example to help for people who don’t understand the political factors behind this campaign. If you watched Chinese current affairs closely, you should be able to recall that there was a similar campaign just in December last year (NY post article mentioned this as well). That campaign was more directly targeted at politically sensitive stuffs on both traditional and internet media.
    There was very little publicity on it – (why?) and it wasn’t too successful (why?). They were able to remove Jiang Yiping, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Southern Daily from her post…’

    I agree with BMY. I guess the shut down of bullog.cn is possible due to the political reasons. But, i wouldn’t link the anti-porno campaign to the political censorship without any evidence. The government’s silence doesn’t lead to your conclusion above. Besides bullog.cn, you also brought up the removal of Jiang Yiping, then with those ‘why?’, you were really hinting something…

    There were many campaigns which were really ‘innocent’ (meaning political-free) before. Will this one develop into a political campaign? I don’t know. At the moment, it seems not yet.

  46. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BMY #40:
    “But the influence dose not qualify CIIRC’S list as a government document like this post suggested.” – I’m not saying the list is an “official” government document. I’m saying it may as well be a government document. Now, if this list is not an official list from the ministries, if the CIIRC has no enforcement power, and nothing will come upon these websites despite being named, then I suppose the entire discussion is moot. But if websites start getting harassed or shut down because of this list, then I would suggest that this would be one of those things that make you go “hmmmm”.

  47. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Netizen K:
    “It is because they consider this is the government’s responsibility.” – I agree. So why doesn’t the government insert their own vulgarity filter? We know they’re pretty good at using the political filter. I’ll phrase it a different way. Would the average Chinese citizen prefer less pornography on the internet, or less political content? If it’s the former, then I’d suggest that the CCP has their priorities reversed in this case.

  48. Arctosia Says:


    First here’s the confirmation from Luo Yonghao, didn’t say much, but enough for me to know what’s going on.

    Sometimes they do genuinely target the “vulgar contents” or pornos, but they won’t shout what they’ve done because nobody would be interested and without the power of higher government departments, CIIRC doesn’t have enough power and resource to coordinate such a large size campaign, publicise it, and to force so many websites to “apologise”.

    The most important sign to look for when determining if it is a political campaign, is whether the user generated contents are targeted – for obvious reasons. That’ why I was saying let’s wait and see whether blogs and forums (not just forums on porno website) are the next target. Bullog was closed, how about forums? Doesn’t look too well at the moment.

    I’m very surprised that I still need to go back to basics after all those years of campaigns and censorship. If you can find clear or concrete “evidence” of ulterior motives of CCP’s campaigns, CCP should have long gone now.

  49. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Arctosia:
    Chinayouren’s blog has an interesting article by ULN regarding internet filtering of searches for Charter 08. If you’re in China, maybe you can try some “vulgar” searches and some political searches, and see how effective the filter is in each case.

  50. Arctosia Says:

    @S.K. Cheung

    You’ve just opened another topic. That post got nothing new to me, it also failed to mention the mechanisms behind. I also realise a lot of people here don’t fully understand the technical aspect of the Censorship, so I want to explain some basics here, well, just for fun, but I’ll try to be as brief as possible.

    There are generally two types of censorship Internet users in China can experience – The Great Firewall initiated, and website self-censorship.

    First the GFW thing. How does it work is another topic, anyone here doesn’t know this should check Wikipedia – put it in one sentence – whenever you see a connection reset/interrupted (depend on your browser when visiting foreign sites, GFW is in action.

    What I want to emphasize is It affects all website indiscriminately (although I believe there’s a white list for “good” websites like People’s daily and Baidu).

    This mechanism used to be bidirectional. I’m living in another country, before the Olympics if I search similar sensitive terms in Baidu, I’ll also get a RESET message as my request needs to pass the GFW first (which I call it “border control”, as GFW only concerns messages that need to pass the border.).

    However, at least to me, this is no longer the case, whether this is the effect of a white list or they removed inbound control, is not yet known.

    GFW is the main mechanism net nanny uses to keep the foreign “nasties” out. Website self-censorship (“Self” censorship, yeah right) is mainly used to control nasties generated within the Nanny’s China LAN.

    The post described two types of block, politic and porno, but they are basically the same and does not depend on whether the nasty is about a porno or politics.The only difference is between a content ban and a keyword ban.

    For example, when you search a porno related word, suggested in that post, “口交”, you’ll get that message but with no results page number below. This is a permanent keyword ban. You were blocked because of the keyword you typed, not the contents Google is going to display to you.

    Charter 08 is more of a content ban, or what I call a selective ban, pages talk about “charter 08” are removed from the results you cannot find them regardless of your keywords.

    Charter 08 cannot be a keyword ban, otherwise if People’s Daily publishes an editorial criticising the charter, people won’t be able to find and “study” it. Most politically sensitive keywords are selectively banned for this reason, and of course, this is also because CCP needs to maintain its image as “we manage the internet in accordance with the law”.

    It’s actually very easy to bypass a keyword ban – it was designed to please the government bosses, and as we all know, they are nothing but fools. Search engine companies knew this, they want to spend only minimal energy and resource to satisfy them, so only the keyword, not the contents are blocked. It’s too easy for most of us to get around: try to search “口交” with quotation marks. I laughed out loud to everyone who tells me how effective the “porno block” is.

    The selective ban is more serious though. It blocks the contents, not specific keywords so no matter how you play your search terms around, you just cannot get the results that were banned(quotation marks in the first case won’t work). This is more effective but adds more workload to search engine companies.

    How to prove it is a contents ban? Simple. My blog entry on charter 08 used to occupy a very good page 1 position in Google so it got banned pretty quickly. Try to search the URL of my post “http://www.arctosia.com/archives/522” as a phrase in Google.cn.

    Hope this helps some people a bit.

  51. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Arctosia,

    thanks for that. Good to know.

  52. Anon FMer Says:

    Arctosia @50, the flip side of the mechanism topic is, virtually every high schooolers in China know how to use ProxyHunter and tor to bypass China’s swiss cheese firewall and get to the porn (or your blogpost if it had porn).

  53. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Anon:
    then I hope these resourceful teenagers have shared their proxy-server know-how with their parents, so adults as well as kids can get access to “forbidden” information. And apart from the saucy stuff, I hope they are using this know-how to engage in some more-cerebral pursuits.

  54. Anon FMer Says:

    Trust me people know. I learned about ProxyHunter and tor from a kid in China.

  55. Arctosia Says:

    @Anon FMer

    I won’t say that really. We all know how to pass the wall because we are in fact quite alike. We all care about politics, know the existence of the Great Firewall of China and know there’s another world outside the wall.

    We tend to befriend with people who share a lot of similarities with us, read forums and blogs which share similar opinions with us – they all give you a false impression that “most people are like me”.

    My estimation is that around 10% of Chinese netizens know one way or another to get around the wall, and believe me, that’s a very, very optimistic estimation. You may question this number but let me tell you why – the majority of Chinese netizens, especially the young lot, are too busy searching beautiful girls (or PLMM, if you prefer) on QQ or killing bosses in MMORPG games, they’ll never appear here to join our discussions so a lot of us just think those people don’t exist.

    For that 10% left, a huge chunk of them are porno lovers only and not interested in politics at all. Don’t know if you’ve ever visited an oversea server based Chinese porno site, I visited a number of them (for study purposes, yeah right), and guess what, those sites were promoting proxy softwares as well because the IP address of their servers are blocked.

    There are also people who need to get around the GFW for other purposes, like academic study.

    Then we got what, like 6-7%, let’s say 5% for easier calculation. Even that 5% are very reluctant to get around the wall. We are lazy animals, if we need too much energy or patience to get over the barrier between us and the outside world, then face it, people simply won’t bother to do anything even if they know how. If you can read Chinese, my friend from PKU blogged on why this is the case:http://www.fangkc.cn/thought/few-want-to-climb-over-gfw/.

    According to CNNIC, China got more than 200 million Internet users, even the 5% of them, by foreign standards, is a fearsome number of 10 million. But in a 1.3 billion+ crowd, they and their power are simply nothing.

    GFW is not just a firewall, it can also shape people’s behaviour. It has done this pretty well in the last decade – one of my 20-ish friends in China who loves to have latest tech gadgets like iphone stuffs (sounds like a tech-savvy guy you might think?), once asked me if he visits my blog(hosted on an U.S. server), would he be charged extra by his ISP because it is a foreign website.

  56. sophie Says:


    Here is a CNN interview with Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder of Global Voices, published on 10 Jan.

    According to this interview:
    1. This crackdown isn’t related to filtering. It’s website self-censorship

    2. It seems quite effective. ‘Chinese Web site companies are definitely jumping to clean it’

    3. ‘People could argue that the technology they use to censor sexual content can also be used clean up political censorship however there is no direct evidence to show it.’

    4. China is not the only country filtering Internet pornography on the Internet, a lot of countries do the same

    5. ‘There are crackdowns from time to time. Generally, before Chinese New Year, there is some sort of anti-porn crackdown that takes place. It’s a seasonal thing, not many people are entirely shocked. There was a crackdown on an online video site last March, which resulted in a 24-hour shutdown. Companies in China have expectations of these sorts of things and prepare to deal with it.’

  57. Arctosia Says:


    I don’t want to keep going back to basics, so allow me to use short bullet points …

    1. I agree, this is not about filtering foreign contents, that’s the job of the Great Firewall. For harmful contents generated within the Chinese LAN, you need self-censorship … wait, “self” censorship?

    2. see above. Also see your point 5, the “time to time” part, if there’s any contradiction?

    3. see comment #48, especially last paragraph, also see comment #55. The whole statement is untrue as every one knows political and porno contents on foreign servers are filtered basically through the same system – curse you, CISCO.

    For harmful contents generated within China … you don’t need filters, you crack them down, Luo Yonghao has just lost the bullog.cn domain.

    4. I hope you don’t reduce every thing into one word “censorship” or “filter” because how information, especially adult contents are filtered are quite different in different countries. You know why People’s Daily and other state media focus a lot on how South Korea manage its internet services? I think for average Chinese Netizens, its such an irony.

    And I’m not questioning whether the State should crackdown sexual contents, that’s another whole topic. If you are asking me this, I think people have the right to be vulgar, so a rating system is more appropriate than just force every one to be elegant.

    5. There’s quite a few things unique in this campaign, huge publicity, nearly all major websites targeted, and 2 crackdowns within a month. But … of course we are not shocked, but a lot of people are surprised by its scale.

    Video sites crackdown is another long story. Do you know now a website needs a permit to provide video services? Government wanted to regulate the market for several reasons, not entirely about censorship:

    copyright issues;
    it is a potentially huge market and too many people, including government ministries want to get their hands on it;
    videos tend to be more “vulgar” because you can see that part, not just imagine it in your mind:);
    and of course, all censorship technologies existed today are very ineffective against videos.

    You also need to research on why tudou.com(土豆网)was closed on march last year. I can give you a start by telling you that the permit system was just introduced few month before the crackdown, and I still remember lots of IT people including me were talking about whether some commercial sites can actually get the permit – for all four and other minor reasons I’ve listed above.

    I also suggest you to not trust CNN – just less than a year ago it was revealed by many that CNN is a “biased”, “ill-intended”, “total evil” and “anti-Chinese” news network. Critically analyse all you read, form your own opinions, please.

  58. sophie Says:

    @Arctosia ,

    ‘I can give you a start by telling you that the permit system was just introduced few month before the crackdown, and I still remember lots of IT people including me were talking about whether some commercial sites can actually get the permit’

    Can you give more details about the permit system? What is the difference from the ICP license (the one allowing online BBS, online commerce)? Since we are running an online business in China. we have ICP licence. thanks

  59. FOARP Says:

    @Sophie – But aren’t internal censorship and the filtering of external content all part of the same system, implemented by the same people, and done in the same fashion? I it not rather artificial to distinguish between the two, since the serve the same purpose? How can we distinguish between an attempt to remove immoral content from the system and political censorship? Why is the majority of content censored done so for political reasons?

  60. Charles Liu Says:

    Foarp, not a whole lot different than our own “Office of Strategic Influence

    Except while they aren’t operating beyond their own sovereign territory, America’s OSI did.

  61. Arctosia Says:


    No, it’s not the ICP license … that thing, is yet another long story. It forced many bloggers including myself to move sites oversea.

    That piece of regulation is called “互联网试听节目服务管理规定”. You’ll need that permit if your site provides an online video streaming service OR download service. I’m not sure whether they still regulate the latter one.

    It was first required that a website must be state owned or the state must be the majority of shareholders in order to get that license. However, as in this latest campaign, if you really closed down all the “vulgar” ones(i.e. non-state owned websites), you’ll likely to anger people in that 90%+ of relatively silent netizens group.

  62. Arctosia Says:

    BTW, you seem to forgot our very own 50 cents party, which was first intended to harmonise websites on foreign servers.

  63. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles,
    for many months now, your calling-card has been to complain about American involvement in any and all places beyond her borders. But do you honestly believe that practice is going to change? And even if China chooses not to exert her influence elsewhere, unlike the big bad Americans, should that buy the CCP a free pass on what they’re doing inside their own borders? If not, then what’s the point with these comparisons? That Americans have issues doesn’t absolve China of hers. And as I’ve said before, there’s always room for a Blog For America.

  64. Charles Liu Says:

    SK, if there is one lesson the Chinese should learn from us Americans, IMHO it is introspection.

  65. Arqam Says:

    I use Astrill to Bypass China Firewall.
    it supports Iphone/Android too
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  66. Anelly Says:

    i use ibVPN and it’s great: fast servers at low prices http://www.ibvpn.com


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