China Launches 'Cleaning the Web 2014' Campaign

CHINA—The Chinese government on Sunday launched yet another campaign to discourage the proliferation of online porn. The idea seems to be that both government agencies and regular citizens are supposed to stay vigilant, and report it when they see it.

According to, "The cyberspace raid, 'Cleaning the Web 2014,' will involve thorough checks on websites, search engines and mobile application stores, Internet TV USB sticks, and set-top boxes, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications said in a circular."

The crackdown extends to mobile devices, too. When the contraband is found, it is supposed to be destroyed. "All online texts, pictures, videos and advertisements with pornographic content will be deleted," added the circular. 

While Americans in general look down on the practice, paying people to inform on their neighbors is not new for the Chinese. "In 2011," added the site, "the government awarded 2,129 people with more than 9.3 million yuan (1.47 million U.S. dollars) for reporting Internet and mobile-phone pornography to authorities, according to official sources."

Despite those successes, this latest campaign is supported enthusiastically by officials. Bu Xiting, an official at the Communication University of China, "said that the latest drive, which will last until November, is both 'inevitable' and 'necessary,' as the Internet world is still overrun with pornographic content due to loose supervision."

That extreme position was shared by Han Jun, deputy dean with the School of Journalism and Communication at Northwest University, who said the campaign will "ram home the message that what is immoral and illegal in real life remains so when it is transferred to the Internet."

She added, "Rampant pornography has disrupted social order and tainted the image of the country as a whole, casting a bad influence on the public, particularly minors." She said people need to better follow a "moral code."

According to Bu, only good things can come from escalated censorship and increased inspection of people's online activities, and urged the government to "improve its legal mechanism regarding the Internet to supervise the virtual world more efficiently."

Over at Foreign Policy, on the other hand, China's experiments in porn bashing are seen as failures that only inspire ever more creative impulses among the country "subversives," with every attempt to sway public opinion met with "a bid to taunt censors."

That was especially true, reported FP, when it came to "a government crackdown on undesirable online content announced March 28 -- called 'sweep out yellow, strike at rumors' (the former referring to pornography, the latter including opinion contrary to the Communist Party line) -- has become a hashtag on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, bearing the same name."

Despite not having created the hashtag, officials still supported its use, and asked "netizens to get in on the anti-porn action through 'joint monitoring and reporting.' And join they have, by labeling not-quite-pornographic material with that tag in what looks an awful lot like a bid to taunt censors."

For instance, they report, "One user in Dongguan, a former industrial hub in Guangdong Province infamous for its sex trade, used the hashtag in his post of an excerpt, rife with sexual innuendo, from the classic Qing dynasty novel Dream of the Red Chamber."

It is precisely that sort of civil disobedience in the face of official campaigns to "protect" the very citizens protesting that keeps government lights burning late into the night, not only in China but in Great Britain, too!