China Regulator Shuts Video Web Sites, Warns Others

China's Internet regulator on Monday ordered 10 online video sites to shut down and warned another 17, resuming an aggressive policy on such sites that had been relaxed during the summer.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said in a notice on its Web site (Chinese) that under the "Internet Audio Video Program Service Management Regulations," "there are still some Web sites posting audio and video programs containing pornography, violence and terror, endangering national security."

The 10 sites ordered to shut down include minor local sites, such as TVSou.com, TSXZ.com and Feesee.com. All 10 were still accessible at the time of writing Tuesday evening, local Beijing time.

Another 17 sites were officially warned to comply with SARFT regulations, including 371dvd.com, which on Tuesday prominently displayed director Gu Changwei's banned film "Spring Begins" ("Li Chun") as one of its offerings, VeryCD.com and JPSeek.com. These sites too were still readily accessible.

China's online video sites are wildly popular but walk a thin line regarding politically sensitive or pornographic material that can be posted to their site. In June, one of China's top three such sites, 56.com, spent over a month offline. Although the company attributed it to technical expansion, the site had been operating without a license.

As such, operators of these sites see self-censorship as good business, and employ teams of content screeners to remove sensitive material. "If you're purely user-generated, then to be honest you may have a lot of racy content, and brand advertisers are very wary and uncomfortable," said Victor Koo, CEO of China's most popular video site, Youku.com, in an August interview with IDG News Service.

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