China sending virtual police on cyber-patrols

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 03:22pm (Mla time) 08/29/2007

BEIJING — Virtual police officers will soon begin visible patrols on Chinese Internet sites to warn surfers they are being monitored, Beijing authorities said in comments published Wednesday.

 

The images of the “Beijing Internet Police,” one male and one female dressed in uniform and saluting, will from Saturday start popping up every 30 minutes on computer screens run by 13 major portals based in the Chinese capital.

 

The cyber cops will be on the look out for websites and Internet activities that incite secession, promote superstition, gambling, fraud and pornography, the China Daily said, citing Beijing’s public security bureau.

 

“It is our duty to wipe out information that does public harm and disrupts social order,” the bureau’s deputy chief of Internet surveillance, Zhao Hongzhi, was quoted as saying.

 

As well as offering a reminder that “big brother” is watching, web users can also click on the cyber police images to connect with the Internet surveillance center and report suspicious activities.

 

“The virtual police officers will faithfully fulfill their duties, listen to the suggestions of netizens and protect them from harm,” Zhao said.

 

Chinese cyber-cops first appeared on portals based out of the southern city of Shenzhen last year, according to the China Daily.

 

While Chinese authorities have introduced the cyber police as a reassuring presence for web surfers, it will almost certainly give further ammunition to critics of China’s attempts to restrict the Internet.

 

Reporters Without Borders in February accused China of spearheading an increasingly sophisticated movement by repressive regimes around the world to restrict the Internet, using new technologies and old-fashioned manpower.

 

“China…spends an enormous amount on Internet surveillance equipment and hires armies of informants and cyber-police,” the media watchdog said in its annual report.

 

“With China enjoying increasing political influence, people are wondering…whether perhaps China’s Internet model, based on censorship and surveillance, may one day be imposed on the rest of the world,” it said.

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