Chinese Internet operators apologize
Leading search engine Baidu feels 'deeply guilty'Three Chinese Internet operators have apologized for failing to purge "vulgar" content following a government pledge this week to expose and shut down offending Web sites.
China on Monday launched a renewed crackdown to stamp out vulgar content on the Internet, which analysts linked to a broader campaign to stifle dissent and protest as the economy slows in a year of politically sensitive anniversaries.
Officials named and shamed 19 Internet operators and Web sites, including search engines Google and Baidu, it said had flouted warnings about pornography and other content deemed inappropriate by state censors.
"We feel deeply guilty," Baidu, China's No. 1 search engine, said in a statement posted on its Web site on Wednesday. "We apologise to Internet users for any negative effects given to society."
NetEase.com.Inc, China's No. 2 online game operator, and SINA Corp. also issued public apologies on their Web sites.
"As to our problems and any harm they could possibly have caused Internet users, SINA feels deeply sad and concerned," the online media group said.
Google's China office stopped short of offering an apology on its Web site, but promised to "work hard" with Internet users and society to build a healthy Internet culture.
"After we received notice from relevant government departments ... (we) cleaned up links to vulgar content that could have adverse effects on Internet users," it said.
Despite China's all-pervasive censorship machine, pornography is widely available online to China's nearly 300 million users, many in their teens.
China's ruling Communist Party is wary of threats to its grip on information and has conducted numerous censorship efforts targeting porn, anti-government criticism and Web sites selling fake drugs.
Analysts have linked the campaign to broader efforts to stifle dissent ahead of sensitive political dates this year, especially the 20th anniversary year of the government's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.