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January 19, 2010

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Carriers crack down on texts

SHANGHAI telecom operators are blocking mobile phone users' short message services for up to two weeks if they are found to have sent texts with pornographic or subversive content.

After an SMS service has been blocked, phone numbers are forwarded to "related authorities" to double check, an official from China Mobile's Shanghai branch said. The SMS function will be restored if there is no problem. Otherwise, the matter will be handled by the authorities.

The crackdown is the latest move in China's campaign, led by regulators including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, to clean up the Internet and the mobile environment.

Regulators have drafted a keyword list for subversive and pornographic content. People who send messages in large volumes with the keywords will lose SMS functions for a period, carriers said.

The keywords consist of 13 "vulgar content" standards, such as content describing sex and sex organs and sexually suggestive phrases, according to the official.

Carriers will block messages for two weeks if users send 50 messages with any of the keywords within a minute. Messages will be banned for seven days if users send 100 messages within a minute without keywords, according to a source at China Unicom's Shanghai branch.

But some users were critical of the new policy. "We Chinese often send greeting messages during festivals, like the Spring Festival next month," said Jerry Sun, a university student.

"Under the new policy, it's difficult for us to send season's greetings to all our friends," Sun said.

Others were concerned about personal privacy during SMS monitoring.

Meanwhile, the latest policy will also crack down on mobile spam, carriers said.

Users who send advertising spam face a permanent ban.

"We will permanently ban SMS only if users send advertising spam over a short period," said a China Mobile official, denying an earlier report saying they would ban users permanently if users send pornographic messages.

"I am often woken by advertising messages at 2am. After that, I can't sleep for the whole night," said Xu Wen, a 52-year-old local woman.


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