Some internet porn sites in China now accessible

Word leaked out slowly, spread by Web-savvy folks on Twitter: Internet porn that once was blocked by Chinese government censors was now openly available.

"Are they no longer cracking down on pornographic websites? A lot of porn sites and forums are accessible," technology blogger William Long wrote on his feed.



Messages like that startled Chinese Web surfers, long accustomed to the authorities' Internet blockades. The country had been in the midst of highly publicized anti-pornography sweeps, and there had been no announcement of any change in government policy.



Yet eight weeks later, the porn sites are still accessible. Still unanswered are questions about whether it's an official change in policy, a technical glitch or some sort of test by the usually disapproving Chinese Internet police.



"This has never been done with the (Chinese) Internet before," said Beijing-based Internet analyst Zhao Jing, who goes by the English name Michael Anti.



Whatever the reason, the change has thrown into sharper relief what many people see as the main mission of China's aggressive Internet censors: blocking sites and content that might challenge the political authority of the communist government. Websites about human rights and dissidents are also routinely banned.



"Maybe they are thinking that if Internet users have some porn to look at, then they won't pay so much attention to political matters," Anti said.



The government has not said why the porn sites were unblocked. Repeated calls to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology went unanswered, and the Ministry of Public Security and State Council Information Office - all involved in Web monitoring - did not respond to faxed requests for comment.



China has the world's largest online population of 420 million - more than the entire U.S. population. While the Internet is the most freewheeling of tightly cosseted media in China, the government has the most extensive Internet policing system, from technical filters that block sites based on certain words to human monitors who scan bulletin boards and micro-blogging posts.



Censorship issues led Google Inc. to clash publicly with China earlier this year and eventually close its China search engine and redirect users to Hong Kong.



Tired of the controls, many Chinese have learned to get around "the Great Firewall," or GFW, as the system is known.



Few Chinese will admit to surfing for porn because it is illegal. Many sites are still inaccessible, and of those, sites that somehow evade control are usually blocked within hours. But the demand is there.



"The more they restrict something, the more people pay attention," said a 29-year-old employee at a state-owned logistics company who did not want to be identified because he surfs for porn on business trips.



Sites that suddenly became available around late May include the English-language YouPorn and PornHub, along with numerous Chinese sites offering downloads, though Anti and others say well-known Chinese-language sites remain blocked.



Wen Yunchao, a popular blogger who writes about social issues and the Internet under the name Beifeng, said even more porn sites have become available in recent days, including a well-known Chinese site called "Xingba," or "Sex Bar."



"In the past, the GFW would use pornography as an excuse" for censorship, Wen said. "Now they're not even trying to cover it up."



Chinese society's conservative attitudes about sex are rapidly changing, especially among the young, who make up the majority of Internet users. The trial and conviction this year in southern China of a college professor who used the Internet to organize orgies touched off a debate about privacy and sexual freedom.



A poll of 900 female graduates at 17 Shanghai universities showed that 70 percent think one-night stands aren't immoral, and more than half said they could understand if a girl became a rich man's lover, according to state media.



Liao Shengqing, a journalism professor who led the study, was cited by the People's Daily newspaper as saying that "students' attitudes come from their respect for individual privacy. They regard sex as a private matter and respect other people's choices."



Some speculate the proliferation of social networking sites and Twitter-like services was taxing the Great Firewall, requiring the government to unblock some porn sites to free up capacity for other snooping.



"I think when the GFW realized they were not able to block all domain names, they reallocated resources to block more urgent or political sites," said Long, the tech blogger who is based in Shenzhen and would not give his real name in Chinese.



As part of the change, employees in the office that cracks down on pornography and unauthorized publications no longer have to report overseas-based porn sites to police because of the difficulties in tracking down Chinese involved, the state-run magazine Oriental Outlook reported in May. Censors only need to note the sites, the report said.



Because a dozen or so agencies regulate the Internet in China, the porn availability may have resulted from a shifting of responsibilities, said Xiao Qiang, director of the Berkeley China Internet Project at the University of California-Berkeley.



"The Great Firewall is not that serious toward blocking porn sites. It never was," he said. The true targets, he said, include political information, current affairs, negative reports about leaders, and anything that may trigger a protest.



"That kind of information is where the censorship focus is really," Xiao said. "Porn, they're just halfheartedly doing it."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Project Manager

    £55000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: iOS Developer - Objective-C

    £38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Design and build advanced appli...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition