China, infamous for cracking down on Internet content it doesn't care for, has a new, much discussed target, Furong Jiejie, aka Sister Furong.
- In late July, authorities told the country's top blog host to move Furong-related content to low-profile parts of the site. Her pictures can still be found online, but links to them and chatrooms about her have disappeared from the front pages of major Web portals.
And after blanket coverage earlier this year, newspapers, magazines and television have recently given almost no time to Sister Furong, who originally came from a rural area of central Shaanxi province.
Meanwhile, in America:
- Social conservatives helped to re-elect President Bush last year. Now his administration is returning the favor with a crackdown on sexually explicit material.
As usual, the Internet is in the political crosshairs. The Family Research Council recently demanded that the Bush administration do something about the .xxx domain--a zone reserved for adult content and set for final approval this month.
The administration was happy to oblige. Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, asked for .xxx to be put on hold. Now its future is uncertain.
The same pattern is repeating elsewhere in the administration. When Bush needed to appoint a successor to Michael Powell, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the president could have chosen someone to relax Powell's "indecency" crackdown.
Instead, Bush chose Kevin Martin, who holds even more expansive views of what's indecent than his predecessor did. Martin voted against airing "Saving Private Ryan" on broadcast TV ...
Congress is becoming just as censorial. One example is a proposed tax on adult Web sites. Another is a bill approved by the House of Representatives that would boost fines for broadcast "indecency" from $32,000 to $500,000 and punish stations with possible loss of their broadcast license.
Now the Senate is talking about expanding that idea to cable, satellite and the Internet. "We ought to find some way to say, 'Here is a block of channels, whether it's delivered by broadband, by VoIP, by whatever it is, to a home, that is clear of the stuff you don't want your children to see,'" Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, told reporters in March. (VoIP stands for voice over Internet protocol.)