China wages war on internet porn and rumor-mongering (again)

If you're a porn connoisseur or troll in China, chances are your year hasn't been great so far. Some 110 Chinese porn websites and 3,300 social accounts on services like Sina Weibo and WeChat have gone dark since January as part of the government's new Cleaning The Web 2014 campaign, and that crackdown shows little sign of stopping. It's not just porn that's being hunted, either -- this rigmarole is just as much about clamping down on odious internet rumors as it is about rooting out NSFW pics and slash fiction.

It's no surprise to see China take aim at the lewd and lascivious: pornography has always been illegal in China, and the online variety has been verboten since 2002. Of course, that protracted battle rages on because previous efforts never fully eradicated all that pesky porn. And how could they have? That's like the one essential rule of the online age: where there's a connection, there's a way. China's high-level logic seems clear (if perhaps wrongheaded): a document from the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications obtained by state-run news agency Xinhua maintains that porn "does great harm to minors and the social ethos." It seems damned near impossible that the Chinese government could ever fully excise porn from the web, but it's still serious about trying. After all, the creator of the country's biggest porn site will spend the rest of his life behind bars and web giant Sina just lost its online publication license after being caught up this recent content cleanse.

Meanwhile, China's disdain for irresponsible online rumor-mongering came to a head last year when a court decided people should be charged with defamation if their rumors were viewed or shared enough times. We've already seen the effects of China's war on those internet rumors, too. Just last week a blogger named Qin Zuihui was sentenced to three years in prison for what state-run broadcaster CCTV referred to as "slander" and "picking quarrels and provoking troubles" on Sina Weibo (a.k.a. China's Twitter). He was apparently a professional troll of sorts, posting false news and collecting payment for smearing his clients' rivals. Utterly shady? Sure. Worth a few years in prison? Very, very debatable. It seems awfully unlikely that he'll be the last mischief-maker that'll get ensnared by the law, either -- the Cleaning The Web campaign is apparently set to run through November.