China moves against online porn, violence

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BEIJING -- China has called on domestic Web sites to sign a voluntary pact governing online video and audio content, saying they should exercise self-censorship to ensure a "healthy and orderly" cyberspace.

The move is part of government efforts to exert greater control over China's rapidly growing Internet sector, and to prevent content deemed harmful or subversive from getting into the public domain.

Eight "central" Web sites on Friday signed the pact requiring them to eradicate pornography and violence, which had "seriously polluted the online environment and affected the growth of young people", the national broadcast watchdog said.

"The signatories should actively disseminate healthy, beneficial audio-visual programs meeting socialist moral norms," reads the text of the pact drafted by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

"Decadent, backward thoughts and culture must be boycotted by all," according to a copy of the pact posted on the administration's Web site. Content related to gambling and "horror" were also targeted.

Signatories so far included the sites of official news agency Xinhua, Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily and other state media organizations.

China has seen robust growth of its Internet population -- 210 million by the end of 2007 -- in the past decade, fostering a dynamic, diverse and sometimes vulgar cyberspace which often defies the more puritanical official culture.

The Ministry of Information Industry unveiled new rules on online video and audio content banning violent, pornographic and fake material late last year.

The rules stipulate that Web sites offering broadcast or streaming services should be run by state-invested bodies. Sites that have a clean record would be able to reapply for independent operating licenses.

The pact asked Web sites to use an online database (net.tv.cn) set up by the watchdog where there was a pool of recommended "excellent" audio-visual programs and a list of illegal content that must be avoided.

Web sites were also obliged to delete improper content uploaded by ordinary Internet users and to protect intellectual property, according to the pact.
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