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Internet Companies Apologize to China for Allowing Smut

January 08, 2009 02:33 PM
by Josh Katz
Google and other Internet companies in China have apologized to the Chinese government for failing to police pornographic Web content.

Google, Others Apologize for Porn

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Several Chinese Internet companies, including Google, have issued apologies for not blocking access to pornographic material. Earlier this week, China scolded 19 Internet companies by name that did not live up to the government’s expectations for appropriate content.

On its company blog, Google China said it had deleted the links to such material, and added that “Google is willing to be a law-abiding citizen in China,” according to Agence France-Presse in an article published by the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Baidu, the most popular search engine in China, also released a statement on its Web site on Jan. 7 saying, “We feel deeply guilty” and “We apologize to Internet users for any negative effects given to society,” according to The Register.

The Web portal SINA Corp. also apologized for its actions.

On Jan. 5, the Chinese government released a list of the companies, including Google and Baidu, the two most popular search engines in China, and provided short statements explaining why the companies were culpable. Seven government ministries will be coordinating efforts “to purify the Internet’s cultural environment and protect the healthy development of minors,” reported the International Herald Tribune, quoting a statement posted on an unnamed government-run news site.

On Dec. 5, China issued a similar statement, but the new announcement has received more attention because the government singled out a number of popular companies.

Those who follow the Chinese government’s interaction with the Web say these actions are “the latest in a long series of measures to limit the Internet in China, and did not appear to represent a long-term policy shift,” the Tribune said.

The government is also asking for the public’s help to crack down on Internet smut by reporting questionable material to the “China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre,” Ars Technica reported.

Background: Global Network Initiative seeks new standards

Internet companies including Yahoo, Google and Microsoft teamed up with human rights groups in October 2008 to advocate for the Global Network Initiative. The culmination of a two-year effort, the initiative was meant to counteract the attempts by some governments, particularly that of China, to suppress the dissemination of information on the Internet, and to use the Internet to watch their populations.

The Initiative states that privacy is “a human right and guarantor of human dignity,” and the companies that participate in the campaign are supposed to object when a country attempts to seize that right.

Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have faced criticism in recent years for acceding to certain countries’ requests to minimize Internet freedom, and the initiative is seen as their response. Google has been charged with blocking information about democracy and Tiananmen Square on the Internet, for example, at the insistence of the Chinese government, the BBC reported. Observers have named the result of such alliances between the Internet companies and the Chinese government the “Great Firewall of China.”

Related Topics: Internet ratings system; NY regulates Internet child pornography

British Minister Seeks US-UK Internet Ratings System
Britain’s minister of culture, Andy Burnham, said on Dec. 27 that the Internet should adopt ratings for Web sites similar to those used for television. Burnham hoped to work with the administration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to protect children from Web sites deemed inappropriate by creating international rules for English-language sites, according to Reuters.
Internet child pornography regulations in NY
In June, three major Internet service providers reached an agreement with the state of New York to block newsgroups and Web sites containing child pornography. The agreement held Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner responsible for regulating the spread of child pornography through their networks. The deal was the result of an eight-month investigation conducted by the office of N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Undercover agents reported instances of child pornography to the ISPs, who are required to alert the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
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