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Blue Jokes Cause Concern over Text Message Service
Online short message services that offer jokes which can be sent to friends through mobile phone short messages are raising concern as almost all the jokes are sexual in nature and freely available to Chinese minors.

"Do you want to know something magic and funny? Send **** to ****," was the message received by one Chinese man from an online message service. Out of curiosity, he responded and was shocked to be bombarded with risqui jokes over his phone at a cost of 0.5 yuan each -- much more expensive than a usual text message (0.15 yuan at most).

"Some jokes are not funny, but really very dirty," the man complained, before canceling the service.

Surfers can log on to the service simply by giving phone numbers and passwords to the websites. "In 24 hours, your phone will be able to receive two sex jokes each week," said one advertisement on a website.

But the websites rarely offer warnings about access for minors.

On all major Chinese websites, no matter what the category of jokes, the examples used are often smutty, which many fear could be a harmful influence on children.

"Yes, almost all jokes online are dirty," said a college teacher in Hebei Province. "There is a craze among students for sending them to each other. It is a fashion."

At present, Chinese courts can only fine those websites which send people pornographic text messages according to the Regulations Governing Offenses Against Public Order, but there is no specific regulation on pornographic on-line information, say experts.

They call for quick actions to make laws to curb online blue jokes from running rampant and, especially, keep such messages from being sent to minor mobile phone users.

The popularity and huge income to be made from this service is irresistible to websites, so they survive at the edge of the law.

(Xinhua News Agency June 21, 2003)

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