Nov 02, 2011 04:17 PM

Citing Obscenity, Officials Shut Down 50 Weibo Accounts

Less than a week following the release of controversial new television restrictions, Chinese officials revealed that they have also put some teeth on a newly-created internet agency.

According to an October 31 report by the state-backed Xinhua News Agency, the State Internet Information Office several days ago shut down 50 microblogs for disseminating pornography and other obscene content.

Established in May 2011 under the State Council's propaganda and information arm, the SIIO is charged with supervising online content. The microblog shutdown is the first report of the SIIO actively restricting information on the web, since its founding.

The report did not name the microblog account holders, or specify which platforms they used.

The news comes on the heels of a major four-day Central Committee meeting in October, which resulted in a series of public statements promoting cultural reform and development, in addition to a "healthy internet culture." Days later, Chinese broadcasting officials released a new set of provisions limiting entertainment shows on television. 

"The campaign to regulate pornographic and vulgar information has expanded to Weibo," said a government official with the SIIO. "Relevant departments will take further measures to block the spread of [this] information."

According to the official, the SIIO had shut down the 50 microblogs because they had posted obscene pictures and videos, advertised sex products without authorization, and publicized prostitution and one-night stands.

Efforts to combat internet obscenity date back to December 2009, when a joint task force of nine central government departments began to shut down websites with pornographic or obscene content. By June 2010, it had cracked down on 169 illegal websites.

The SIIO officer said microbloggers and the companies that sponsor them should follow the law by not spreading unlawful pornographic content. Companies, for their part, have in recent weeks said they are also taking steps to monitor content, especially when it comes to rumor control.

On October 31, Tencent Chairman Pony Ma said his company is in the process of studying new measures to limit unwanted posts on Tencent microblogs. Weeks before, Sina Corp. CEO Cao Guowei said the company is also developing a system to make content easier to control on its Sina Weibo platform.

China counted 195 million microblog users at the end of July, a 209 percent increase from the end of 2010, according to figures issued by the government-affiliated China Internet Network Information Center.

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