What occurs in the virtual world has a strong influence on the real world so Internet media operators as well as surfers should be aware of the consequences and be more responsible.
That was the message delivered by officials and experts attending the 2006 Forum on Internet Media of China which opened Thursday in the capital of Yunnan Province.
"The Internet media should play a bigger role in promoting social harmony," said China's Vice Minister of the State Council Information Office Cai Mingzhao.
He listed a number of problems associated with the Net in the country including online fraud and gambling and the spread of obscene and false information which "poisons the environment for the Web's development and harms the credibility of Internet media."
Citing figures from the Illegal and Malicious Information Reporting Center, which was set up by the Internet Society of China in 2004, Cai said residents had about 350,000 complaints of which nearly two-thirds related to obscenity and pornography.
"Internet media operators should run their websites according to the law," Cai said. "They should also conscientiously shoulder their social responsibility by providing healthy and lawful information and building credibility."
Min Dahong, a senior Internet researcher who has followed the Web's expansion in China since the country was first wired in 1994, said offensive online behavior had drawn widespread attention. It included explicit violent acts such as torturing a cat to death and invasion of privacy.
"This has greatly upset people," Min said. "For the sake of healthy development of the Internet, users need to strike a balance between freedom and obligations."
Vice-Minister of Information Industry Xi Guohua said at the forum that just as "society needs management and regulation so do the Internet and information networks. The purpose of management and regulation is for promoting the Web's further growth rather than impeding it."
The number of netizens in China was reported to have reached 123 million at the end of June and the country will soon surpass the United States to become the world's largest Internet user. After securing nearly 100 percent telephone penetration in most villages the country was striving to ensure that every township has access to the Internet in the next five years, Xi said.
China Daily Editor-in-Chief Zhu Ling told the opening ceremony that since cyberspace was very open and free it was more challenging to build harmony online rather than offline. He urged Internet media to take their social responsibility seriously and contribute to the healthy development of society.
Nearly 300 participants from at least 100 news websites, Web portals and service providers at the annual forum also discussed how traditional media can co-exist with new media and how innovation in technology and services can facilitate further expansion of the Internet.
(China Daily December 1, 2006)