Chinese officials class Google and Baidu “Vulgar”

BaiduIt has been reported that Chinese officials today launched a crackdown on “vulgar” websites which it states includes Google and the most used search engine in China, Baidu.

The Guardian states there were 19 sites named that the officials said had failed to censor inappropriate content despite warnings or that had not done so swiftly enough, “harming” young people’s physical and mental health.

Images on state television showed officials seizing equipment from an office and the The China internet illegal information reporting centre – part of the Internet Society of China – claimed searches on Google and Baidu produced too many links to obscene or pornographic websites.

Baidu has captured around two-thirds of the world’s largest internet population, with Google, the world leader in search, in second place.

The crackdown list included several other of China’s most popular sites, such as Sina, Sohu, Netease and Tianya.

This type of practice is not new to China, where the government has frequently launches online censorship drives to target pornography and web scams as well as political criticism.

Officials have promised “stern punishment” for offenders this time. Pornography is illegal, but widely available, in China.

A Google spokeswoman in China, Cui Jin, defended the site’s operations, stating Google is a search engine and does not generate any pornographic content. The company obeys Chinese law, she said to AP. “If we find any violation, we will take action. So far, I haven’t seen any examples of violations,” Cui said.

This opens the question as to how much of the internet can be policed. As Google says, it does not produce this content, it is a search engine, should it therefore delete from its search results anything that contains profanities or certain parts of the body? Wouldn’t medical journals and biological education pages then be rejected?

When censorship starts it sometimes finds it difficult to stop. Your views are welcome.