Chinese want to take away internet porn


6 Jan 2009

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China announced a major clampdown on internet pornography today, begging the question as to how much government intervention is too much when it comes to web content.

Google was one of the portals cited by the China Internet Illegal Reporting Information Centre as providing links to a “huge quantity of pornographic sites”.

A spokeswoman for Google was reported as saying the company obeys Chinese law.

Pornography is banned in China, and the Government has blocked access to many websites it considers subversive or too political. In December, it resumed blocking some websites it had unblocked during the Olympics as a gesture of good will.

Seven government agencies are working together on this latest campaign to “purify the internet’s cultural environment and protect the healthy development of minors”, according to a statement from the information office of the State Council, China’s cabinet.

Paul Durant, general manager of the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), said his organisation is adamant that blocking websites is not the answer if a country wants to stop illegal content appearing online.

“Each country decides how far it brings up the bar in terms of illegal content. In Ireland, adult pornography is not illegal, once the person featured is not under 17 years of age.

“If we are notified of material suspected of being illegal, we can trace it and establish whether it is or not, and then action can be taken if necessary. We are not a censor. If content is found to be illegal, we work with the relevant ISP and the law enforcement agencies throughout Europe to have it taken down.”

The ISPAI is against enforced blocking of websites as a lot of material that is not illegal can be restricted, depending on the techniques used. “It can lead to huge collateral damage – you could block one site, for example, which is providing co-location hosting where people have lots of sites under one IP address. This means innocent sites risk being taken out,” Durant said.

By Sorcha Corcoran

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