In a sign that the Internet was becoming an increasing focus of propaganda controls in China, President Hu Jintao launched a movement in March 2006 for the creation of a “civilized” Internet.

The campaign dovetailed that spring with the party’s latest moral/political crusade, which went ahead under the banner of “eight honors and eight disgraces” (or “the socialist view of honor and shame”). A companion term was “civilized going online” (文明上网), referring to the individual role of the Web user in achieving a “civilized” Web.

Kowtowing to Hu’s policy statement on April 9, 2006, fourteen leading Web portals in the Chinese market, including US-based Yahoo, issued a joint proposal for a “civilized” Internet, free of so-called false and indecent content. State media predictably hailed the united front as a major breakthrough for social morals in the country and a key component of Hu Jintao’s vision of a “Harmonious Society”. Beijing Youth Daily put the headline in bold directly under its frontpage banner: “14 Websites Propose Civilized Operation of the Web”. A subhead directly below pointed readers to an editorial in Beijing Daily, the official mouthpiece of top city leaders in the capital, which said: “We believe that through the united effort of society, and with the continued cleansing of the online environment, the idea of operating and using the Web in a civilized way will become the dominant practice. The Internet will then truly become an important place for publicizing scientific theory, broadcasting advanced culture, creating beautiful spirit, promoting all that is just and honorable in society and correctly guiding public opinion.”

While much of the publicity surrounding the policy focused on its role in combating pornography and other “indecent” content, the reference to “guidance of public opinion” revealed the terms close connection with overall Internet censorship.