Google Hustles to Meet China’s Porn-Blocking Demands

Google has stepped up its efforts to fight Internet pornography in China, following Beijing’s move on Friday to block some Chinese-language results delivered by its search engine.

“We are undertaking a thorough review of our service and taking all necessary steps to fix any problem with our results,” Google spokesperson Scott Rubin told TechNewsWorld.

Go, Go Google Geeks

The Web search giant needs to get cracking. Chinese authorities have warned they may take further action depending on Google’s response.

China’s “national office for Internet pornography crackdown” has asked Google to clear out pornographic and lewd content, filter pornographic content from its search results, and prevent such information from flowing into China, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

It’s not clear which “national office” Xinhua referenced. Several government agencies were involved in a previous nationwide crackdown on pornography in January.

Google has met with the Chinese authorities, and has put a lot of work into resolving the problem, Rubin said. “This has been a substantial engineering effort and we believe we have addressed the large majority of the problem results.”

A Brief History Of Porn

Xinhua quoted the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center (CIIRC) as saying that Google’s Chinese portal was still providing links to many obscene pictures, videos and articles despite warnings in January and April.

In January, China cracked down on Internet porn, targeting popular online portals and major search engines such as Google and Baidu.

Baidu, a Chinese search engine, commands about 70 percent of the Chinese market, while Google has much of the remaining 30 percent, according to reports.

CIIRC said the January national antiporn offensive resulted in the closure of 1,575 sites containing pornography and lewd content within a month. Authorities arrested 41 people during the campaign.

The crackdown, launched jointly by seven government departments, was later extended to cover mobile phone games, online novels, blogs, videos and radio programs.

Content Police

CIIRC was founded in June 2004. It is sponsored by the Internet Information Service Commission of the Internet Society of China, a nongovernmental organization registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The Internet Information Service Commission is a grouping of more than 170 of the most influential Web sites in China. Supported by membership fees and donations, it regularly organizes public welfare events and self-education activities for members.

CIRRC operates under the guidance of the Ministry of Information Industry; the State Council Information Office; the Ministry of Culture; and the General Administration of Industry and Commerce.

It works with Chinese law enforcement agencies, including the Ministry of Public Security.

CIIRC focuses on content harmful to the healthy growth of minors, such as online obscenity; pornography; gambling; violence; terror; criminal abetting; and content that spreads ethnic hatred and libel, insults, violation of rights and violation of intellectual property rights.

Keeping China Clean

The latest action against Google is yet another step in China’s war on porn.

The country has been working on managing Internet access since December 2003, when the Internet Information Service Commission was founded.

More efforts to combat porn are under way. Beijing city authorities plan to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers to monitor the Internet and report lewd content or Internet users exhibiting uncivilized behavior, according to Reuters.

Beijing also is reportedly developing its own Internet filtering software.

Growing Pains

China’s struggle with porn and lewdness is typical of a society grappling with modernization, Martin Reynolds, a Gartner distinguished analyst, told TechNewsWorld.

“Think back to the America of the 1950s — there was a very controlled attitude towards this kind of thing, and that’s exactly the sort of thing we’re seeing here with China,” he said.

“You can expect to see this kind of stuff as they struggle to modernize their society, but, by 2050, it will probably be like the rest of the world,” Reynolds predicted.

Even in the U.S., authorities want to control Internet access — or at least know what citizens are doing on the Web. The city of Bozeman, Mont., for example, wants job applicants to provide user names and passwords to social networking sites or Web groups they belong to.

The information will be used to verify information on job applications, the city said.

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