A Chinese search engine has apologised for providing links to pornographic content following an official crackdown.


The owners of Baidu said that they felt ‘deeply guilty' for negative effects that sites had on users. China's two leading online gaming operators, NetEase and SINA Corp, have also issued apologies.


Baidu said in a notice on its website: “Besides deleting the obscene content and links concerned, we have improved our regulatory system. We apologise to the netizens at large for the negative impacts we brought upon the society.”


Baidu was among 19 sites criticised by the government for failing to get rid of material it deemed unsuitable. The sites have been told to clean up or face possibly being shut down.


Wang Qiang, a staff member of the Beijing Internet management office, which is responsible for punishing violators, told the China Daily newspaper Wednesday they were working on punishment schemes for the more vague charge of spreading vulgar images.


The move follows a crackdown by authorities on pornographic content as pornography is illegal but widely available in China.


Cai Mingzhao, a deputy chief at the state council information office, told the Guardian: “Some websites have exploited loopholes in laws and regulations. They have used all kinds of ways to distribute content that is low-class, crude and even vulgar, gravely damaging mores on the internet.”