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China to scrub its Internet of songs deemed offensive

The People's Republic takes aim at music, ordering streaming companies to examine songs before they're posted to ensure they're not violent, overly sexual or inappropriate under government rules.

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China's Internet is one of the most censored in the world and faces even fiercer scrutiny thanks to regulations set to take effect in January.

Under the new rules, announced Monday, companies that provide or host music online must examine what's being made available before it's posted to ensure it's appropriate for public consumption, as per China's Ministry of Culture. This means companies like Baidu and Tencent will need to create teams tasked specifically with weeding offensive songs out of their catalogs, the ministry said.

The result could be particularly unfortunate for Chinese fans of hip hop, with authorities having blacklisted dozens of rap songs in August, claiming they promote violence and obscenity.

The tightening control over online music is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to keep the Internet clean of what it deems offensive, pornographic and culturally inappropriate content. The People's Republic is already well known for having a heavily censored Internet, with sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter being blocked behind what's referred to as the Great Firewall of China.

The new rules cover not only songs, but also music videos. Media providers will be required to submit quarterly reports to the government on their music vetting efforts. Baidu, China's equivalent to Google, declined to comment. Alibaba Group and Tencent, two other Chinese Internet giants with music streaming services, did not respond to a request for comment.

In what could be a foreshadowing of what's to come, the ministry banned 120 songs in August. Many of these came from hip-hop groups, including in3, whose song "Hello Teacher," a rap about cruel teachers, was blacklisted. Others songs were banned for featuring titles referencing sex.

Even with strong censorship of content, Chinese companies have been aggressive in offering streaming entertainment in a country with 480 million Internet users who listen to online music, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.