China expanded an Internet cleanup campaign Friday, shutting down an edgy blog hosting site for apparently carrying "harmful comments" and naming more than a dozen sites containing pornography or other vulgar content.
The latest government Internet sweep began with a well-publicized crackdown on pornography, which is banned in China, but was widened to include a blog hosting site popular with activists, http://www.bullog.cn.
The site was shut down Friday afternoon, founder Luo Yonghao told The Associated Press.
"I got an e-mail from the Beijing Communications Administration this afternoon, saying the Web site contained harmful comments on current affairs and therefore will be closed," he said, declining to elaborate.
It was not known whether the shutdown of bullog.cn was permanent. The site, home to some outspoken social and political commentary, was closed temporarily last year during a key Communist Party congress after criticism of the meeting was posted.
A duty officer for the Beijing Communications Administration reached after hours Friday said he did not have any information on the case.
The government remains wary of losing its control over the Internet, which could be used for organized opposition to the rule of the Communist Party. Internet companies also regularly self-censor to keep from running afoul of the authorities with material that might be considered subversive or too political.
China has the world's largest population of Internet users with more than 250 million.
A cache version of bullog.cn viewed Friday night did not reveal any particularly outspoken content, though the site likely had ties to a bold online petition circulated last month called "Charter 08." The document called for a new Chinese constitution guaranteeing human rights and was signed by more than 300 lawyers, writers, scholars and artists.
Late on Thursday, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center — the government-backed body that monitors the Internet — posted a list on its Web site naming more than a dozen sites, including Microsoft's MSN, that it says need to clean up pornographic content.
(Msnbc.com is a joint Microsoft - NBC Universal venture.)
The sites contained a large amount of vulgar material that "violated society's morals, and harmed the health of young people," the notice said. It urged the sites to eliminate offensive content and for Internet users to monitor the process.
Pornography, while banned in China, remains widely available on and off the Internet. Popular Chinese Web portals frequently show sexually explicit pictures and provide links to pornographic Web sites.
On Monday, seven government agencies launched a one-month campaign to clean up China's Internet content. The same day, the center criticized 19 Web sites, including Google and China's most popular search engine Baidu, for allegedly carrying vulgar or pornographic content.
Many of the Web sites issued apologies and vowed to clean up, setting up hot lines for complaints. Forty-one Web sites were shut down because they contained vulgar content, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.
The Internet reporting center said MSN China's movie channel and bulletin board contained a large amount of vulgar images. Google has begun cleaning up its content but needs to continue, while Baidu's cleanup has been ineffective with much vulgar content still available, it said.
Officials at Microsoft China and Google Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment. A notice on Google's Web site Tuesday said it had started checking for links that contained vulgar content.
At Baidu's public relations office, a woman surnamed Zhang referred questions to Baidu's overseas department, where the phone rang unanswered.