Authorities behind China's nationwide crackdown on internet pornography have turned their eyes — or rather, their ears — to a less-traditional form of online erotica: dirty audiobooks.
Four employees at one of China's largest online audiobook providers, ilisten.cn, have been detained for "spreading pornography and harming the morals of young people," Shanghai's municipal public security bureau said yesterday. China Daily reports the company is claimed to have recorded its own amorous fiction files by hiring young women to read erotic novels.
The website also encouraged users to upload home-made oral pornography, and promised a taste of the profits, authorities said.
Shanghai porn-busters fingered over 17 "unsuitable" audiobooks available on the website, which they say earned ilisten.cn more than 40,000 yuan ($5,860, £4,060) since it launched the service early last year.
Shanghai Daily reports the four arrested were the website's general manager, a 30-year-old man surnamed Gong; two of Gong's employees; and a 23-year-old woman nabbed in Beijing surnamed Ma who allegedly was hired to record some of the offending books.
Ma, a broadcasting graduate, read four of the erotic books as a part-time job earning 40 yuan an hour ($5.90, £4.00) police said.
"Most websites in Shanghai know that porn production is a line you can never cross," an officer told Shanghai Daily. "But in this case, suspects thought porn audio was hard to detect. Traditional porn content including videos, photos, and search terms are easy for censors to find and block."
As of February, China had shut down about 1,911 websites as part of a broad campaign to rid the internet of "lewd" materials. Civil rights watchdogs note China's definition of "lewd" media is extremely broad and is likely including online political dissent in the sweep.
Since the crackdown began earlier this year by publicly shaming major sites like Google China and Baidu for linking to pornographic content, authorities have expanded to mobile text messages, video games, chat rooms, online novels, and just about any type of digital content the government deems to be "violating public morality." ®