Ananth Krishnan

Authorities accuse it of violating laws

“Links to pornographic material”

Chinese bloggers call for boycott of the Internet

BEIJING: Chinese authorities on Thursday accused Internet giant Google of violating the country’s laws even as access to the widely used website remained disrupted for users in China since Wednesday evening.

In recent weeks, the American search engine has come under heavy criticism from Chinese authorities, who have accused the website of providing links to pornographic material in its search results.

Last week, the Chinese government suspended some of the website’s services and had summoned officials from Google China asking them to “clear out” material that was allegedly pornographic. On Wednesday, access to the search engine and its popular e-mail service, Gmail, was blocked across China.

As of Thursday evening, access to the website had returned for some but remained disrupted for many users here and in Shanghai.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang did not comment on whether the disruptions had been caused by the government, but he did accuse the website of spreading “large amounts of vulgar content that is lascivious and pornographic” and of violating Chinese laws.

The government has, in recent months, intensified its crackdown on pornography. The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre (CIIRC), a government-sponsored Internet watchdog, has shut down more than 4,000 websites since January for alleged pornography.

Last month, the government announced a controversial plan to install Internet-filtering software on all computers sold in China after July 1. The plan has been widely criticised by many Internet users who see the move as an effort by the government to widen censorship. Access to many websites and blogs, particularly those discussing politically sensitive subjects, is restricted in China.

Chinese bloggers are rallying the country’s 298 million “netizens” to protest the recent moves and have called for a nationwide boycott of the Internet on July 1.

The crackdown has also threatened to escalate into a diplomatic row, with the U.S. voicing concerns over China’s software plan.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, in a statement to Chinese officials, accused China of “putting companies in an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications.”

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