China Installs Online Porn Patrol

Joanne Cachapero
BEIJING — Starting Saturday, the Chinese government will implement virtual police officers to patrol websites that contain adult-oriented content and other “illicit” online activity.

Two cartoon-like figures outfitted as police on motorcycles, in cars and on foot will appear at the bottom of users’ computer screens every 30 minutes, to remind them of “Internet security,” the China Daily newspaper reported yesterday.

By clicking the icons, citizens will be linked to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau of Internet Surveillance where they can report illegal activities.

“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 said.

The police first will monitor major news portals including Sohu.com and Sina.com and is scheduled to monitor all Beijing-based websites and online forums by the end of the year.

The bureau will be on the lookout for sites that “incite secession, promote superstition, gambling and fraud,” a bureau official named Tian said.

Calling online users “netizens,” Zhao said, “The virtual police officers will faithfully fulfill their duties, listen to the suggestions of netizens and protect them from harm. We have achieved visible results in recent months but there is still a long way to go. The virtual cops will better communicate with netizens and improve our efficiency.”

Beijing-based web hosting provider Xirang said that Internet police have mobilized all resources, from China’s second-largest fixed-line operator Netcom to online security company Symantec, in order to restrict potentially harmful Internet content.

Sohu.com, which created the virtual police, praised the Internet monitoring program. The company’s chief operating officer Gong Yu said, “Illegal activities have affected the healthy development of the Internet and especially harm youths. Most netizens are young people.”

China has approximately 163 million Internet users and 5.4 million are located in Beijing.

So far, the bureau says it has identified 128,000 web pages with adult content and shut down 244 pornographic sites.