Before Tibet's unrest, Tudou and YouTube saw scrutiny in China

A Chinese agency promised to shut or punish video sharing websites for hosting prohibited material, but this was going on before the incidents in Tibet made a different agency's occasional blocking of YouTube famous.

A Chinese agency promised to shut or punish video sharing websites for hosting prohibited material, but this was going on before the incidents in Tibet made a different agency's occasional blocking of YouTube famous.

An AP reporter says the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) announced Friday that the leading Chinese video site, Tudou, would be penalized. The report notes that no mention was made of Tibet, but doesn't make clear the most important part: that this all started before the demonstrations in Tibet did. I am sure SARFT takes politically sensitive films into account in addition to their advertised concern about obscene material, but it's important to note how Tudou's travails began.

As I reported earlier , rumors that Tudou had been ordered to shut down started circulating in the first week of March, with a failure to catch some pornographic material on the site as the justification.

That story got more complicated after a mixture of denials and partial acknowledgments of SARFT action and a 24-hour shut-down of Tudou that the website said was for a server upgrade, a reason few commentators believed at the time. But the site did come back online on schedule.

At the time, rumors emerged of a "blacklist" that was circulating as a precursor to some sort of punishment in compliance with new regulations that require video providers to be state-run (but were modified to grandfather in already existing sites if they were vigilant about SARFT's rules).

Beating the AP with a bit of detailed information, Jeremy Goldkorn at Danwei reports that Tudou will be one of 32 sites to be punished, while 25 others will be shut down all together. So, after all, unless the penalty is massive, Tudou will live on to fight (and probably keep on with free illegal TV and movies) another day.

As for YouTube, it's been much reported that YouTube is inaccessible in China since the beginning of the current situation out west. (I have been in Japan the whole time, so haven't experienced this myself.) But this is not the first time YouTube has been blocked. The most recent example I know of was during last year's 17th National Party Congress when the site was blocked and then unblocked at a time suspiciously near that important political event.

On Monday, I'll be able to talk first-hand about what's on- or off-line from Beijing. For now, Osaka is my new favorite city in Japan.

About the author

    Formerly a journalist and consultant in Beijing, Graham Webster is a graduate student studying East Asia at Harvard University. At Sinobyte, he follows the effects of technology on Chinese politics, the environment, and global affairs. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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