Google, alongside other popular web portals, was warned on Monday that they must do more to block pornographic content from reaching Chinese users, in the latest in a series of crackdowns on Internet content by the Chinese government.
Chinese authorities published a list of 19 websites that have failed to get rid of unsuitable material. The list includes American search giant Google and China's top search engine Baidu. According to the BBC, one Chinese official said that the websites could be closed down if they fail to delete the offending material.
Speaking on Chinese Central Television Cai Mingzhao said, "we will continue to expose, punish or close down websites that have a lot of vulgar content."
However, the list also contained Tianya, a site that is popular amongst people who criticise the Chinese government, suggesting that the crackdown is not just about "vulgar content."
Charles Freeman, a specialist on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies based in Washington, reckons that the pornography is just a decoy. "They're looking extensively at political speech, the sort of things traditionally cast under the First Amendment in this country," Freeman said. According to the Associated Press, Freeman also said that 2009 is a "very sensitive year politically in China," with it being 50 years since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, 30 years after the democracy wall movement, and 20 years since Tiananmen Square.
Cui Jin, a spokeswoman for Google in China said that the search engine does not generatre any pornographic content and obeys Chinese law. "If we find any violation, we will take action. So far, I haven't seen any examples of violations," she said.
California-based company spokesman, Scott Rubin, added that Google has no control over the content of the billions of pages in its index.