BEIJING - China's major portal Sohu.com on Tuesday responded to a watchdog's accusations of being slow in deleting online porn and erotic materials by asking media and users to boycott obscene contents.
Chen Luming, vice president of Sohu, said the move was meant to raise people's awareness in purifying the online environment and stop making portals the scapegoats for troublemakers who intentionally upload obscene contents.
"We call on all Internet communities, media and netizens not to publicize nude photos, videos and literature ... and not to spread pornography... and show respect to people's privacy by not filing personal information." read the bulletin on its web page.
Sohu, with another 18 Web sites, including search engine giants Google and Baidu, were accused by the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center(CIIRC) of failing to block pornographic and "vulgar" materials on Monday.
Li Jiaming, head of CIIRC, said those Web sites were not doing enough to keep those materials from reaching Chinese users and some of them had repeatedly ignored warnings from CIIRC.
Sohu said the large number of Internet surfers made it difficult to filter such information with limited technicians.
Cui Jin, a Google public relations manager in Beijing, said it was technically challenging to delete sensitive issues and Web site links as the definition for pornography and "vulgar" contents was too vague.
"We are open to users' reports and any warnings and would take immediate actions to delete porn, but it's important to stop people who make them."
She said the definition for "pornography" and "vulgar" materials was too vague for the Web site to decide which pictures and videos would fall into those categories.
Cai Mingzhao, deputy director of the State Council Information Office said in a meeting held on Monday that vulgar contents contain information that advocate bloodshed, violence, murder, slander and libel. Inexplicit or erotic sexual images, publications, animations, comics and videos could also be considered vulgar.
Pornography and obscene contents are explicit and more easily recognized.
The distribution of pornographic and obscene publications, videos, articles for nonprofit use in the most severe cases could be punished with up to two years' jail term, according to China's Criminal Law.
The law regarding punishment for distributing "vulgar" materials, however, is not as clearly delineated since the definition for what constitutes vulgarity is more vague, according to Wang Qiang, staff with the Beijing Internet management office, the organization responsible for punishing Internet law violations.
The office is working on punishment schemes, he said, adding that some small-scale Web sites were previously closed down for the distribution of inappropriate material.
Both Google and Sohu staff said they have not been notified of any punishment to date.
Nearly one hundred Web sites and online forums, dozens of which are university Web sites, are joining the boycott against pornographic and vulgar material.
China has the world's largest population of Internet users with more than 253 million as of June 2008. Young people comprise a large portion of Internet users.
Easy access to network service often gives Chinese parents a reason to worry that their children are being exposed to pornography. Despite a cultural shift in attitudes in the past decades toward sexuality, such topics are still considered inappropriate for public discussion.