China may be the only country where “porn judge” is an actual government job title. The army of specialized judges, first created in 2010, has the occasionally cringe-worthy job of watching every allegedly pornographic video that comes under the government’s radar to decide which meets the Chinese definition of porn.

These judges, the government says, have the sacred task of returning the Internet to a clean and safe state.

Whether such a state has ever existed is debatable, given porn’s relationship with technology dates back to the teleprinter.

But as more pornographic pop-ups encroach on Chinese Web space, parents are complaining about the effect the digital environment is having on their children.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you clicked on when one of those pictures or clips jumps out of the screen,” says Zhao Suhong, the mother of a middle school boy. “Someone must think of the children and fix this.”

Zhao blames pornography for the nation’s rise in sex crimes.

In spite of their moniker, porn judges have more executive than judicial power. Most are employed within the police system and are assigned to pore over the DVDs snatched from vendors or hard disks seized from suspected sex offenders.

CCTV broadcasts are required to censor the statue of David.

CCTV broadcasts are required to censor the statue of David.

Whether possession of a pornographic video constitutes a criminal offense is entirely up to the sensibilities of the judge.

“It’s a job that comes with both psychological and physical pressures,” said Zhang Ning and Wang Dong, leaders of a police porn unit in Zhejiang Province. “Our judgment on a video will decide people’s fate, so we have to be careful.”

Many porn judges are expected to work late nights, being called in to view videos as late as 3 am. All are required to be married.

Porn judges are also employed in the private sector.

Private porn judges can earn as much as 200,000 yuan ($32,000) per year. Applicants are expected to be familiar with the genres of porn produced in each country, as well as Chinese law. A recent recruitment noticed required applicants to explain why CCTV censors the statue of David and the video grading systems of the US, European Union and Japan.

Most private porn judges are employed by Security Union, an Internet monitoring organization that cooperates with provincial governments to watch more than 800 websites.

There are also volunteer porn judges with the Beijing Internet Association. More than 3,000 men and women volunteer their time, scouring the Internet for “unhealthy” pictures or video clips. Suspected video are reported to the association for further analysis.

Ye Hen, a volunteer porn judge, said it’s embarrassing for young children when such images suddenly appear on their screen.

While the job may seem suspect, proponents argue that it is “necessary in a traditional country like China,” and especially so in a society eager to create a “better Internet environment for teens.”

Sexual curiosity and needs may be understandable, but spreading unhealthy information must be punished, Zhang says.

Although the standards used by porn judges are not made public, Zhao says she is happy to see that relevant departments are taking action to deal with the urgent question of Internet safety.

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  1. It’s not only sacred but also beauty job. In a way getting the pure philosophy of Confucius into objective reality. But it’s a struggle against modernisation and closer economic ties with the West, the centre of Sodom…

    Peter / Reply

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