China cracks down on obscene online ads

BEIJING - China has launched a nationwide campaign to crack down on false and obscene online advertising about sex-related products, according to a government statement released on Wednesday.

As the sales of such products have moved online in recent years, complaints from the public have also grown - mostly about obscene online advertisements or fake products, according to the statement.

Since 2010, more than 4,000 such complaints have been received, according to the China Illegal Information Internet Reporting Center.

Some illegal drugs, such as ecstasy and crystal meth, are also advertised as sex medicines, but are extremely harmful and can lead to higher rates of crime and juvenile delinquency, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Also, sex products, especially sex-related medicines, usually use obscene pictures and pornographic information online to lure potential customers, which can have a negative influence on netizens, particularly the young.

"The online advertisements have become a new channel for spreading pornography," the statement said.

The campaign, carried out by six government departments including the State Council's Information Office, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Health, aims to discourage the dissemination of such obscene information.

Websites found to have such content face closure, the statement said.

The campaign also targets alleged sex-related drugs.

According to the State Food and Drug Administration, more than 90 percent of so-called "sex medicines" sold online without government approval numbers are counterfeit, and some might cause harmful side effects.

On Baidu, the most popular search engine in China, more than 7 million entries can be found for the key words "sex medicine".

Deng Shuming, a member of the China Sexology Association, told China Daily that fake sex-related drugs found in online stores often had no effect or even harmed people's health.

"The ingredients of some online drugs have no quality guarantees, and the techniques to make them may not be safe," he said.

So far, only 27 websites in China can legally sell drugs, according to the State Food and Drug Administration.

However, "the number of people purchasing sex drugs on the Internet is about 10 times larger than that in hospitals," Deng said.

"Many online sex drug sellers take advantage of customers who have problems concerning sex and shy away from hospitals," said Ma Xiaonian, chief physician of the sexology department under Beijing's Tsinghua University Yuquan Hospital.

"Some patients complain that sex drugs in hospitals are too expensive, and some also say they cannot afford the time to go to crowded hospitals," he added.