China targets erotic audiobooks

Four workers detained as part of crack down

BEIJING — Chinese police have detained four workers at an online service that produced and distributed erotic audiobooks as part of a nationwide crackdown on Internet smut.

The suspects were arrested and charged with “spreading pornography and harming the morals of young people” after authorities discovered nearly 1,000 audio books available for download that contained pornographic material, the China Daily reported.

The four worked for a Shanghai-based company that runs ilisten.cm, one of China’s largest online audiobook providers.

The company made its own material by recording young women reading erotic novels and also encouraged users to upload pornographic audio documents by promising them a share of the profits, said officials. The “Night Talk” stories got two million hits last year and were downloaded 260,000 times. Initial investigations showed it had made more than 40,000 yuan ($5,800) since it launched last year, the China Daily said.

With more than 500,000 registered members, the site was “potentially hazardous to the online community with its unhealthy audio documents designed to attract visitors and increase earnings,” said Qu Weifang, director of the information security division, which is part of the Ministry of Public Security.

His office would step up its campaign against pornography to include cellphone websites, chatrooms and instant messenger groups to “purge the online environment of obscene content,” he said.

The campaign against smut has seen more than 1,900 websites shut down since it started in January. China has the world’s largest population of web users with more than 250 million, and the government is keen to take advantage of its commercial opportunities, but it is less enthusiastic about the platform it provides for free expression and possible dissent.

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