China's censors turning attention to online video content

China's ever-growing legion of government censors have now shifted their shadowy gaze to online video content, issuing native websites with a rigid set of new regulations that demand the removal of material which features "violence, pornography, and swearing."

The 'Notice on Further Strengthening' was issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and was revealed as part of a series of published responses to journalist questions.

Site administrators are now responsible for vetting all video content before prodding the publish button in order to "protect young people's physical and mental health" admist a slew of "vulgar" material emanating from the rise of online drama series and mini-films (top), according to the document first highlighted by the Register.

"The regulations explicitly hold distributors of online video programming responsible for violations of propaganda discipline," blogged David Bandurski from the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong.

"It remains to be seen how SARFT intends to enforce these regulations, particularly in the case of user-generated content," he added.

Youku, China's most popular online video site, claimed it would not be affected as it already employed stringent video-checking measures.

"Nothing with vulgar or violent materials will pass," said a company spokeswoman.

She continued: "If it is anti-party and anti-society, it definitely will not pass. No website will allow such content."

Critics suggest that the ambiguity of the word "vulgar" leaves the Notice open to interpretation, with the move represeting the latest online clampdown instigated by Party officials as they seek to come to terms with the threat to single-party rule perceived in the digital age.

Government censorship is widely practised in the People's Republic - the country's prohibitive infastructure is so vast it has been dubbed the Great Firewall of China, with sites like YouTube and Twitter banned - much to the chagrin of Western observers with a vested interested in an expansive and open digital landscape. Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt, for one, believes that it is only a matter of time before Chinese efforts to control the Internet fail.

Russia has also launched controversial new legislation recently, with Wikipedia going dark for 24 hours earlier in the week in protest at a bill similarly justified as necessary to combat sites that host child pornography, promote teenage suicide, or encourage drug use.