China backtracks a bit on online video sites

China's government backpedaled slightly from its earlier policy concerning video sites, now saying that existing sites can continue to operate.

China's initial law seemed to suggest that it was going to block any foreign Internet video site that the government didn't control, alarming free speech supporters. Now it seems as if the government is slightly backing down.

Banned material according to the law consists of: content with national secrets, content that sullies the reputation of the country, socially disruptive material, and pornography. "Those who provide Internet video services should insist on serving the people" and socialist principles, the Associated Press reported the new policy as stating.

The new policies which took effect at the end of last month still apply to new sites, meaning that American companies looking to enter the Chinese Internet video market will still be effectively shut out.

What this means is any new site that pops up will essentially be state-owned, and thus cleansed of "subversive" material before it appears online. It is still not known how this will affect the uploading of amateur videos, a staple of these sites worldwide.

"Companies that began operation legally before the regulation was issued and have not violated laws or regulations can be licensed and continue operating," a statement from the Ministry of Information reads.

Some had expected before Tuesday's announcement that foreign sites could begin to ally themselves with state-owned media in an attempt to get around the new rules. But that now appears unnecessary.

Rapid growth in the sector in China appears to have given the Communist government cold feet. With hundreds of video sites now in operation in China, and more appearing, it would have become increasingly difficult for the country to control content, possibly allowing some material it deems objectionable to be viewed by Chinese Internet surfers.

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