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A civilized Internet and scientific, educational blogs

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Watch your back!
China's bloggers are reforming themselves to become productive members of society, judging from a series of posts on major blogs over the past few days. Massage Milk treats readers with arcane bits of knowledge in German and Russian, while post-80s writer Han Han has put aside his literary feuding, looking instead at the latest research in cement tubes. He even thinks to warn his readers not to make the mistake of being "uncivilized" when they respond to his how-to post on the proper way to care for your chicken.

Yes, it seems that the great push to "Run a Civilized Internet, Use the Internet Civilly" (文明办网,文明上网) is having an effect. Nineteen service providers signed a voluntary agreement yesterday to self-regulate online content, bringing to fruition the "Blog Pact" that was first proposed last year as a way to regulate blog content. Today's People's Daily ran an edifying op-ed article by a CASS academician arguing that the only way to enjoy, preserve, and cherish freedom online is to voluntarily limit yourself - otherwise, someone else will have to.

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Marching for honor and disgrace in Hunan.
Cheering this on is GODPP, the Party Office of Spiritual Civilization Development and Guidance, whose website contains all you'd ever care to know about the Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces and other social campaigns. "Spiritual Civilization", naturally, refers to social ethics in the face of base materialism.

And it's one basic statement about ethics that the People's Daily editorial draws out into several paragraphs of warning:

There's a bottom line to social ethics, and the patience of the public has a limit. If you do not learn to cherish freedom, if you do not learn to respect the rules of society, then external regulation may be difficult to avoid in the future. If some blogs that harm others at every turn do not wake up to this fact and clean up their act, if they insist on waiting for someone else to help them take out the trash, then they may find that there's no place for them anymore.

Today's People's Daily includes another editorial referencing a horrifying tale told by a juvenile criminal earlier this week that "shocked" 300 online editors. The story starts out "I had been the class's computer representative, but when I started looking at pornographic pages at the web cafe, everything changed..." and details how the youth learned from his friends how to find porn online, and progressed from photos to movies to visiting prostitutes to stealing computers to giving five girls drugged drinks, all of which he learned online. Other juvenile offenders told similar stories: "It all started with online gaming..." The PD concludes that the solution is for the online media sector to regulate itself.

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What is the bottom line of social morality? Rules from Sohu impose the following penalties on bad content:

In regard to anything uncivilized that appears, Sohu has instituted punishment measures in three areas: economic punishment, administrative punishment, and resource punishment....If obscene images are found, the highest fine is 1000 yuan. The highest fine for flirtatious or sexy images is 300 yuan. The highest fine for violent and bloody headings is 200 yuan.

Danwei readers are familiar with Skinhua and the lightly-clad models posted at other, registered sites (pictured here is the only pixelated image from a series of crotchless lingerie photos on the NEN portal). And the perennial debate over the difference between porn and "body art" seems moot when the majority of the comments on the galleries are 干她 and the like. These are ostensibly respectable sites - a financial site, MII registered in Fujian, hosts 340 index pages of naked bodies (nsfw unless you work in a glamor studio). That'd be quite a bit of money on Sohu.

The first PD article concludes:

The amount of freedom blogs will enjoy and the length of time it will last will be the result of choices made by the bloggers themselves. Don't sit around and let the opportunity for voluntary, flexible self-discipline slip away, or you will be compelled to accept external regulation or punishment.

And that seems to be what bloggers like Massage Milk and Han Han are doing - can't risk being flirtatious, after all. Get ready to enter the new, exciting world of the civilized Internet!

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There are currently 7 Comments for A civilized Internet and scientific, educational blogs.

Comments on A civilized Internet and scientific, educational blogs

About time. Will someone PLEASE think of the children?

The internets is a confusing jungle of worlds.

Thought experiment: if the CCP had to legalize porn sites or pro-democracy sites, which would they choose? The Spiritual Pollution coefficient is harder to calculate than you might think. If I'm the CCP, I go for porn, even though 99% of Chinese wouldn't go to pro-democracy web sites anyway. Why? Porn isn't conducive to group action..(ahem..) Porn watchers aren't going to organize in any way. Porn is really the perfect opiate of the masses. Don't think CASS hasn't considered this...

I dunno, more and more often I get tired of the (American) idea that companies are non-ethical entities. As long as the pact is truly voluntary, I don't see what's wrong with it; in fact it's downright refreshing.

You mean voluntary like use fear of reprisal to make them voluntarily do what they want? Or do you mean free like they are free to do what they are told? Self-censorship is always more comprehensive and effective than externally imposed censorship. Really, one is just a catalyst for the other. On its own, state censorship could never control a billion people. Its sole purpose is to generate the conditions and climate in which self-censorship becomes second nature. Sovietology 101.

Anyway, I guess it is hard to measure "truly" voluntary in such an environment.

having clicked on that fujian-based website in the name of research, i was extremely shocked. have these ladies never heard of a brazilian?

That's why I threw in "truly". I'd be skeptical of it too, but like you say it's not easy to judge.

Mike: don't diss it till you've tried it.

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