China purges web porn - but is it an attack on free speech?

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Western observers say crackdown on obscene material masks broader online repression

LAST UPDATED AT 13:00 ON Tue 22 Apr 2014

CHINA has announced a crackdown on internet pornography, titled 'Cleaning the Web 2014', shutting down thousands of websites, including social media sites, in the process.

The campaign has seen the closure of more than 110 websites and 3,300 user accounts allegedly containing obscene material since January, reports The Independent. Online pornography is illegal in China and this is just the latest in a long line of purges.

A spokesperson told the state Xinhua news agency: "Disseminating pornographic information online severely harms the physical and mental health of minors, and seriously corrupts social ethos."

However, critics in the West say the repressive state's apparent concern for citizens' moral fibre may be an excuse to suppress freedom of speech and dissent. Writing for US publication Foreign Policy, Zhang Jialong says the crackdown is "not about porn" but instead is "going after rumours".

By shutting down sites which allow users to post whatever content they like - which could in theory be pornographic but in practice might be political - the Party can suppress dissent, he suggests.

Another commentator, Tyler Roney of US-slanted site The Diplomat, points out that, given previous internet campaigns, "it's hard to understand how some of the largest porn sites... slipped through the cracks".

He adds: "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." · 

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If our politicians had any moral integrity they would act against the hard core porn sites ,or insist that voyeurs opt-in and block sites to other users

If you're that worried. Why shouldn't it be you who opts out?
Why should others have to be on some sort of Pervert Household register?

I can't help but think those who peddle the opt-in option are just porn addicts crying for help.

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