SHANGHAI: Four employees at an online store have been arrested over the production and distribution of erotic audiobooks as part of a government crackdown on pornography.
The suspects all work for a local culture promotion company that runs www.ilisten.cn, one of China's largest online audiobook providers.
They were seized on suspicion of "spreading pornography and harming the morals of young people" after almost 1,000 files available for download on the site were found to contain unsuitable material, said the Shanghai municipal public security bureau yesterday.
Initial investigations revealed the website, which charged customers to download the offending audio books, has made more than 40,000 yuan ($5,800) since it launched the service early last year.
The company made its own material by recording young women reading erotic novels and also encouraged netizens to upload pornographic audio documents by promising them a share of the profits, said officials.
With a registered membership of more than 500,000, such a website is "potentially hazardous to the online community with its unhealthy audio documents designed to attract visitors and increase earnings", said Qu Weifang, director of the information security division under the public security bureau.
He also said that, using traditional search engines such as Google and Baidu, it was far more difficult to find pornographic audio material than videos, adding: "We will step up efforts to examine audiobook websites to ensure a healthy online environment."
The bureau will also spread out the campaign to cellphone websites, chatrooms and instant messenger groups to purge the online environment of obscene content, he said.
The nationwide clampdown launched by the country's ministries for public security and culture to target websites that offer erotic material started in January.
So far, more than 1,900 sites have been shut down, the national Internet regulator said in a statement last month.
Meanwhile, about 500 online service providers and 160,000 websites based in Shanghai have been urged to take more care with their security systems.
Qu added: "We'll also educate the public to raise awareness of resisting such content and encourage them to monitor online pornography."