For many Chinese website operators, 2009 didn’t start very well. China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre, a semi-government agency, has published a list of websites which contain “vulgar and unhealthy information” deemed to be harmful to the country’s youth. The list (in Chinese) can be found here.
The interesting thing about this list is that it covered majority of the most popular websites in China. Google was ranked number one “vulgar” site (see, e.g., NYTimes article), followed by Baidu and Sina.
I’m very confident that every Chinese netizen have visited at least one of such vulgar websites. I myself must have visited at least 75% of the websites listed and would probably be diagnosed as psychotic under the Chinese guideline.
Most of the Chinese netizens are very familiar with such Internet Cleansing campaign as it was repeated many times in the past decade. Most such cleansing have been justified under the banner of “please thinking of the children” (which really is a logical fallacy), because it’s usually the adult internet users who are the real targets.
So have these campaigns worked? Well, the funny thing is, thanks to the newly onlined Xinhua Search engine, an official search engine intended to censor vulgar information, if you know the right keyword, you can find as many “vulgar” information as you can expect to find in most commercial websites. I can list you an endless list of examples of vulgar information that can be found in Chinese official news websites like the Xinhua Net: this, this, this ,or this, and the list goes on (I don’t know the rating used for this site, so if I exceeded it, my apologies), and yet they were never criticized by anyone.
Basic economics dictates that it is very difficult to censor out all those “unhealthy” stuffs if somebody really wants to find them, as there is a market for it.
As a regular user of the most vulgar website (Google), I cannot recall not even once that Google returns me “unhealthy” information, unless I deliberately searched for it (only on rare occasions, haha) – not to mention Google has a optional filter that censors images and texts, which is very effective in my opinion. Therefore it is hard for me not jump to the conclusion that the accusation of search engines means that creators of the list, themselves deliberately searched “vulgar” information in order to produce the list.
So now who’s unhealthy and vulgar?
In my view, “protect the future generation” probably isn’t the original purpose of all those internet cleansing campaigns. The campaigns by themselves are kind of the ridiculous: find me another country on this planet which labels the absolutely majority of its netizen population as “internet addicted” and “vulgar”?
Most of the Chinese parents, including mine, are not as tech-savvy as their children. Some don’t even use the Internet. TV and newspaper are still their major source information, which are still largely controlled by state.
Strangely, this generation is in fact the targeted audience of such campaign. I have met too many Chinese parents who didn’t hesitate to use corporal punishment to their children just because they logged onto the Internet without parents’ knowledge, because in their mind, they have associated the Internet with evilness.
This last generation to still distrust the Internet are in their 40-50s (or even older), financially stable, and now command the echelon of power in China. It is this potentially powerful political force to which the recent edicts sounding the alarms of vulgarity are directed.
Now the long demonisation of the Internet is starting to making sense to me….
Note from admin: Thanks Allen’s help for editing this post.