China cracks down on disturbing cartoons

Guangdong authorities on Wednesday closed a company making and translating subtitles for seemingly innocent cartoons, which actually contain scenes of a violent and sexual nature.

Guangdong authorities on Wednesday closed a company making and translating subtitles for seemingly innocent cartoons, which actually contain scenes of a violent and sexual nature.

Two offices of the Guangzhou Yinjun Trade Company were closed and all related videos were asked to be deleted, according to the office against pornographic and illegal publication in Guangdong.

The company apologized on its official Weibo account, China's Twitter-like platform, saying: "We set the wrong example, to increase online video traffic by making videos that contained disturbing and inappropriate content not suitable for children."

Guangdong police said the province had no other companies involved in making these harmful videos so far.

The latest move is a reaction to the controversial "Elsagate" scandal, a public furore surrounding inappropriate cartoons believed to be aimed at children. Elsa is the main character of the Disney animation "Frozen," and is prevalent in many disturbing cartoons on online video website YouTube.

The action came after China launched a nationwide campaign Monday to crack down on harmful online cartoons after an online article went viral on the country's social media.

The English article, which said, "A group of perverts are targeting kids on YouTube. I used to work for them," was originally posted on social media website Reddit in November, stirring widespread concern among Chinese parents who read a Chinese translation of the article.

The matter was further complicated by the fact the story was originally posted on a section of Reddit called "nosleep," a part of the website usually reserved for "original horror stories," where it is explained that "suspension of disbelief is key."

The article describes the author's experience working in an unidentified animation firm that makes fake video clips of popular cartoon characters, such as Elsa, Spiderman and Peppa Pig, into scenes of violence, terrorism and sexuality to trick children into watching.

These animated videos, called "children's evil classics" by Chinese media, have been uploaded onto major video portals in China.

The video uses tags to fall into "parent-child" categories and once a child plays several of the videos, more are automatically recommended.

A woman, who gave her surname as Du, said her five-year-old daughter spent hours watching cartoons on an iPad everyday.

"Most of the video characters are popular cartoon images. It is hard to detect the disturbing content if parents pay little attention to them," Du said. "These videos are wicked, not only because they spread content full of violence, torture, abuse and sexuality to children, but because they try to rationalize the perverted acts by fitting them into everyday scenes like eating, sleeping or chatting."

Chinese authorities have taken action quickly after Internet users first detected the problem.

The Beijing Integrated Law Enforcement on Cultural Market asked the video websites to purge themselves, carry out self-examination and clean up all the videos.

Search engines were also asked to block related keywords.

China's online video firms such as Youku, iQiyi and Tencent Video have closed related accounts and deleted videos.

"These disturbing videos are very harmful for children. Cleaning up all these videos is urgent," said Mao Yingmei, a political advisor in Beijing.

"In the stories, abortion, going through surgery, being beaten or offended are as normal as having lunch. So, children are encouraged either to endure torture or inflict abuse on others," wrote a commentary on Weibo.

Mao said the video content related to children should be strictly regulated.

"We should try to filter video contents for children in an effort to maintain a healthy network environment for them," Mao said.  

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