BEIJING (Reuters) - China's internet regulator has launched a new campaign to clean up the comments sections on websites to prevent the spread of what it calls harmful information and to encourage what it considers more helpful, well-intentioned comments to appear.

The Chinese government already exercises widespread controls over the Internet and has sought to codify that policy in Law.

In a statement late on Tuesday, the Cyberspace Administration of China said the crackdown on comments sections was aimed at tackling "outstanding problems".

Deputy head of the administration, Ren Xianliang, was quoted as saying in a statement that they wanted to carry out a large-scale "cleanse" of the comments sections and make it easier for people to report illegal or harmful content.

"Proactively foster a healthy, positive Internet culture, and let cultured comment, rational posts and well-intentioned responses become the order of the day online," Ren said.

Online media must make sure their stories are not simply "click-bait" and that they fulfill their responsibilities to society and make sure they properly control online comments to "allow the internet to better benefit the people", Ren added.

Officials say internet restrictions, including the blocking of popular foreign sites like Google and Facebook, are needed to ensure security in the face of rising threats, such as terrorism.

Foreign governments and business groups have pointed to restrictions on the internet as a broader trade issue.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)