China shut 60k websites in 2010; list of banned SMS words leaked

TAGs: censorship, SMS

china-websites-banned-sms-wordsA Dec. 30 press release by Wang Chen, the head of China’s State Council Information Office, claims that there will be no let up in the government’s crusade against websites dabbling in vulgarity, pornography and obscenity (translation: gambling, boobies, and any political opinions that run contrary to the party line). The online crackdown resulted in 60k websites (150 of them gambling-related) being shut down in 2010, a four-fold increase over the 15k taken offline in 2009. And according to Chen, they’re just getting started. “Our campaign has not come to a stop. This will be a long battle.” Good thing they’ve removed those ambiguities in their online gambling laws, huh?

While the state has no shortage of online detectives searching high and low for censor-worthy material, they also rely on a user-friendly suggestion box for citizens personally offended by content they find online — and 516 of these amateur sleuths even earned cash rewards for their efforts. With those incentives, it’s not hard to imagine that a few unscrupulous online gambling operators might start employing this tactic to help pad their take-home pay — and cut their competition off at the ankles.

China is also keeping a close eye on its citizens’ text messages. A pair of documents recently surfaced on Twitter purporting to be lists of ‘banned’ terms in use by China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicorn. In addition to references to Falun Gong and other politically sensitive subjects, some 600 ‘vulgar’ terms, including the word ‘gambling’ made the grade. However, the authenticity of the SMS lists has been questioned by some bloggers.

That said, there is no doubt that China recently banned the use of Chinglish — English or other foreign words (often slang terms) being used without an accompanying Chinese translation. In doing so, they’re not just being petty. Currently, English is the primary language of 537m internet users, with China in second place with 450m. But with another 36m Chinese citizens having made their first trips online in 2010, expectations are that Chinese will overtake English as the dominant online language by 2015. (Check out this infographic from NextWeb for the whole story.) We might as well all come to terms with the fact that this is now China’s world, and we’re all just living in it.


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