BEIJING—As the Chinese government’s campaign to nip wireless pornography in the bud escalates, China’s three licensed telecom operators—China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom—are under increasing pressure to act. On Monday, China Mobile did just that when it said it was suspending payments for all WAP providers it works with pending a review.
"All service providers that have commissioned us to collect fees for their businesses online are required to guarantee that their services are free from porn and are not commercially related to any pornographic websites for mobile phones," Wang Jianzhou, chief executive of China Mobile, said in a press release issued Monday.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “China Mobile also said that as of Sunday afternoon it had blocked 626 pornographic mobile Web sites, 478 of which were based on servers overseas, and 148 on Chinese servers (including six that had been using China Mobile’s own data center).”
The Chinese are increasingly concerned that they are quickly losing control of the mobile internet, whose increased capacity and fast 3G networks are attracting massive number of new Chinese users—seven million as of Sept. 30. While that number is tiny in terms of the overall Chinese population, the exponential rise in use has brought with an inevitable increase in unwanted content, something the government knows will continue as more people access mobile networks, unless something is done now.
In recent months, more than a dozen different ministry-level government departments have launched coordinated crackdowns on the creation and distribution of lewd material. A recent campaign focused on the cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, as well as the Zhejiang province, where the government says many mobile porn sites are registered.
These campaigns have coincided with the government’s call on Chinese carriers to take action, which China Mobile initiated Sunday.
The two other licensed carriers have yet to announce their own plans of action regarding mobile porn sites, but time is clearly running out. The government is no doubt aware that China Unicom, which launched commercial 3G services in October, is adding users seven times faster than China Mobile.
According to PC World, “China Unicom's next-generation mobile service won more than 1 million users in its first month, a number that took rival China Mobile seven months to reach with its homegrown 3G standard.”
As China’s economic fortunes continue to improve, it is inevitable that most if not all of its current 700 million mobile subscribers will move to 3G networks, and then to whatever faster networks come after. How China plans to control all content shared across those networks in the future remains to be seen, but it clearly believes that the tipping point in what will be its success or failure in that endeavor is happening now.