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China tightens online controls, increasing punishment for circulating rumours, porn

BEIJING, China - Chinese authorities have tightened already rigorous Internet controls by cracking down on online pornography and what state media called "rumourmongers" and "slanderous content."

The state news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday that the country would target pornography on smartphones and punish pornographic app creators.

Xinhua said the government would also increase punishments for spreading rumours online although it didn't specify how it would add to existing sentencing guidelines. Already, Chinese courts can sentence people for up to three years in prison for writing online comments deemed defamatory. As part of the new campaign, the government has shut down websites and punished nearly 40 people it called rumourmongers.

Xinhua reported Wednesday that a court in southwestern Yunnan province had sentenced two people for "fabricating and spreading online rumours for economic gain." A court in the provincial capital of Kunming sentenced Dong Rubin to 6 1/2 years in prison and fined him 350,000 yuan (about $56,000) for illegal business operations. It also sentenced his colleague Hou Peng to three years in prison and fined him 50,000 yuan (about $8,000) for the same charge, although Hou received a reprieve from the prison sentence.

The report said Dong and Hou were convicted of fabricating blog posts at the request of business clients and that Dong was also convicted of "creating disturbances" by posting false information and comments about an Oct. 2011 attack on 13 Chinese sailors.

China enforces some of the world's tightest online controls and often prosecutes bloggers and political activists by accusing them of spreading rumours. According to Xinhua, the government issued a statement saying its latest campaign aimed to "protect Chinese Internet users' rights in their life, work and studies."

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