I just heard from a Chinese friend who works in the web industry. He says the anti-smut crackdown announced on Monday has already taken three victims at the Guangzhou-based web portal, Netease (Wangyi). He says that this morning， "high ranking officials" were highly angered by some content featured in Netease's entertainment section. They demanded the resignation of three editors responsible.
The source didn't have further information about exactly what content sparked the outrage and firings, but the Chinese twitterati are speculating it may have been the racy paparazzi photos of Zhang Ziyi that made the rounds of Chinese web portals yesterday.
Has anybody heard about any other editorial casualties in this latest crackdown?
UPDATE: Pacific Epoch has more info from the Chinese press today:
Google, Baidu, Portals to Ramp Up Content Controls
"Google (Nasdaq:GOOG), Baidu (Nasdaq:BIDU), Sina (Nasdaq:SINA), Sohu (Nasdaq:SOHU), Tencent (700.HK) and NetEase (Nasdaq:NTES) have released apologies for content said to be harmful to youth, according to 163.com and cnbeta.com reports. The Internet companies said they have deleted related content and intend to strengthen supervision to ensure a healthy online environment.
Of the 19 websites cited by government-backed China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre (CIIRC) for unhealthy content on Monday, 12 Beijing-based companies, that excludes Tencent and community site Tianya, have launched reporting hotlines to combat poor substance, reports Beijing Morning Post. CIIRC directed its backlash at information found in search, forum, photo, blog and personal space services.
Meanwhile, censorship and concerns about "bad stuff" are by no means the exclusive province of China. Just today we've got reports of Thailand blocking more "anti-royal" websites and Britain's culture secretary calling for "cinema style age ratings" for websites before ISP's would make them accessible (so much for grassroots citizen media). According to The Daily Telegraph: "Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites."
Hong Kong is undergoing a review of its Obscene Articles Ordinance with much public discussion about filtering, and more generally How to Make the Internet Safe for All People From All Bad Things. For those who read Chinese, Charles Mok in Hong Kong has a thoughtful essay warning against the damage that over-zealous censorship can do to a society. He cites Lynn Sutton's Access Denied: How Internet Filters Impact Student Learning in High Schools and also points to Vint Cerf's brief manifesto, "Truth and the Internet." It's worth reproducing in full:
Truth and the Internet By Vinton G. Cerf
Truth is a powerful solvent. Stone walls melt before its relentless might. The Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known.
But the power of the Internet is like a two-edged sword. It can also deliver misinformation and uncorroborated opinion with equal ease. The thoughtful and the thoughtless co-exist side by side in the Internet's electronic universe. What's to be done?
There are no electronic filters that separate truth from fiction. No cognitive "V-chip" to sort the gold from the lead. We have but one tool to apply: critical thinking. This truth applies as well to all other communication media, not only the Internet. Perhaps the World Wide Web merely forces us to see this more clearly than other media. The stark juxtaposition of valuable and valueless content sets one to thinking. Here is an opportunity to educate us all. We truly must think about what we see and hear. We must evaluate and select. We must choose our guides. What better lesson than this to teach our young children to prepare them for a new century of social, economic and technological change?
Let us make a new Century resolution to teach our children to think more deeply about what they see and hear. That, more than any electronic filter, will build a foundation upon which truth can stand.