One battle China's online censors can't win

Bruce Einhorn

For a regime notorious for censoring the Internet, China’s government is having an awfully hard time fighting one of its main online enemies - porn. Beijing may have the upper hand in battling online advocates of democracy or the Falun Gong, but when it comes to sex, even China’s tens of thousands of Chinese Internet cops are overwhelmed. It’s not for lack of effort. Seems every month we hear about another campaign from Beijing targeting Internet porn. Just last week, for instance, I wrote an Asiatech post about a Chinese blogger whom the police nabbed for writing online erotica.

Still, there’s no shortage of Chinese willing to risk arrest by providing or viewing online porn. Consider this article from the China Daily about Zhang Meimei, professor at Beijing’s Capital Normal University. She’s director of the school’s research center on sex education and recently called for China to launch a ratings system for websites. According to Zhang, the Internet has 370 million sexually explicit websites, and Chinese can get to lots of them, despite the best efforts of the government. Says the China Daily: “Zhang, who has studied sex education for 16 years, said Web sites should cater to the needs of juveniles and improve their environment because 'it is impossible to block all the unhealthy information on the Internet.'" (Emphasis added)

So China's Internet cops are not all powerful. Unfortunately for free-speech advocates and for Chinese dissidents, it’s a lot easier for Beijing’s censors to target the far smaller number of political sites. In that fight, the numbers definitely still favor the government.

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