China's Great Firewall deleted 350 million pieces of harmful information as part of that government's 2010 campaign to clean up the Internet by shutting what it judged to be harmful sites.
Chinese government officials touted the success of its extensive system of
filtering and blocking Internet content in 2010, saying the Internet is
"cleaner than before."
More than 350 million pages, or "pieces of harmful information,"
which includes text, pictures and videos, have been deleted, and 60,000 adult
content Websites were shut down, said Wang Chen, head of the State Council
Information Office, during a press conference on Dec. 30, according to Reuters
"There was a notable improvement in the online cultural
environment," Wang said.
Wang said the government checked 1.79 million Websites and rounded up 4,965
people suspected of spreading lewd content. Of those suspects, 1,332 people received
"criminal punishment" and 58 were jailed for five years or longer.
Critics have accused the government's campaign of censorship, often referred
to as the "Great Firewall," of shutting down Chinese sites with
politically sensitive information and user-generated content. The Chinese
government defines "obscenity" rather broadly, as it has shut down
sites with Flash games and political commentary in the past.
In comparison, China
only shut down 15,000 Websites in 2009 for having "obscene" material,
deleted 1.5 million pages, shut down 136,000 Websites and convicted 1,580
people, according to China's
General Administration of Press and Publication reported by the China
The deleted sites don't include content already blocked in the first place,
such as Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook. China
also added Skype on its list of blocked services in December.
The government received more than 160,000 tips from members of the general
public on sites to investigate, and one of the departments involved in
censoring the Internet paid out about $81,964 to 516 informants in 2010, Xinhua
the official state-run news agency, reported in November.
A branch of China Mobile reportedly invited 20 mothers of teenagers to help
monitor and find questionable Websites, Xinhua said.
China has more
than 450 million users online, an increase of 20.3 percent since 2009, said
Wang. There is plenty of room for growth, as that accounts for less than half
of the current population, which is 1.3 billion. The country implemented new
regulations in 2010 regarding cell phone users and Website operators,
ostensibly to prevent harmful online content from reaching children.
The Internet base is more or less untapped by some of the major Internet
giants, since the Chinese government refused to let them operate. For example,
Google first stopped censoring search results on its China-based
Google search service
and then shut down the service after a sophisticated
cyber-attack compromised Gmail accounts. It wasn't a big loss for Chinese
users, as Baidu dominated the country's search engine market, but it underscored
the difficulty of foreign companies competing in China.
There are a number of Facebook and Twitter clones in China
thriving, such as RenRen and Sina Weibo, as well.
Wang said Facebook's chief Mark Zuckerberg, who had visited China
recently, had not met with his department. "We saw reports that he met
with some well-known figures in China's
Internet industry," said Wang. "We are also still trying to learn more
about his visit to China."