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China Launches Porn Purge In Attempt To 'Clean The Web' And Strengthen Censorship

22/04/2014 14:22 BST | Updated 22/04/2014 14:59 BST

China, a country well-known for its enthusiastic online censorship, has launched yet another bid to purge the internet of online pornography.

The country has unfurled a vigorous new campaign to "clean up" the Internet, attempting to rid it of everything from pornography to “rumours” that might undermine Communist Party rule, the party’s news portal 'Seeking Truth' declared this week.

The Orwellian-sounding "Cleaning the Web 2014 Campaign" has already shut down some 110 websites, along with 3,300 accounts on social networking sites such as WeChat and Sina Weibo. Almost 7,000 advertisements and 200,000 pornographic articles have also been removed.

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Pornography has been illegal in China since 1949 and the latest drive, which is supposed to last until November, follows repeated attempts to censor sites displaying the material.

An unnamed state official was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying: "Disseminating pornographic information online severely harms the physical and mental health of minors, and seriously corrupts social ethos."

Anyone who produces, distributes, or purchases lewd magazines, books, or videos can also be penalised. Usually the punishment is just a fine and a warning, but in 2005 the creator of China's biggest porn site was sentenced to life in prison.

Censorship of the wider media and Internet is routine in China, but the crack down has intensified since Xi Jinping took over as president last year.

Interestingly, Bloomberg notedthat Chinese stocks trading in New York fell after the nationwide crack down was launched.

Critics have said the move is a renewed attempt to silence grass-roots voices and stifle dissent.

Tyler Roney of the Tokyo-based magazine The Diplomat, wrote that, given previous internet campaigns, "it's hard to understand how some of the largest porn sites slipped through the cracks.

"If you want to read reports from Amnesty International or the New York Times in China, you are bang out of luck. Still, the glorious proletariat can look at Porn.com until they're blue in the face."