Page last updated at 06:14 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Chinese web portal porn apology

Chinese internet user (file image)
There are fears China's internet "clean up" could be used to stifle dissent

A leading Chinese search engine has apologised for providing links to pornographic content following an official internet crackdown.

The owners of Baidu said they felt "deeply guilty" for any "negative effects" such sites had on web users.

Baidu was among 19 sites criticised by the government for failing to get rid of material it deemed unsuitable.

The sites have been told to clean up or face possibly being shut down.

China's two leading online gaming operators, NetEase and SINA Corp, have also issued apologies.

Baidu said it had deleted the "obscene content and links concerned" and had also improved it regulatory system.

"We apologise to the netizens at large for the negative impacts we brought upon the society," it said.

The BBC's Micky Bristow in Beijing says China believes it has a duty to protect public morality and fears that "unhealthy" content could be damaging for young people.

But some fear that the latest crackdown could be used as an excuse to stifle expressions of political dissent online, says our correspondent.

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