China’s online censorship programme has taken a decidedly aggressive turn, following the announcement that police officers will now be stationed inside large Internet companies.
The country’s deputy minister of public security Chen Zhimin revealed the plans earlier this week and explained that “network security offices” would be set up inside digital firms “to find out about illegal Internet activity more quickly.”
The decision to increase internal regulations is hardly surprising given that China is well known for its draconian online censorship programme. It already employs the so-called Great Firewall of China to criminalise certain forms of online speech and activities and block access to a number of sites. Recently the Chinese government has also been accused of launching DDoS attacks at websites trying to circumvent its censorship programme – an approach dubbed the “Great Cannon.”
Some of China’s larger online companies, the likes of web services company Baidu, already have to ensure that their content is free from pornographic and violent material as well as political content that criticises the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The Financial Times reports that some users of Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social network, and messaging app WeChat have had their accounts deleted for “rumour mongering” or have even been arrested for posting images relating to last year’s Occupy Hong Kong movement.
Currently, the Chinese government have not explained the logistics of having officials placed within online companies, but if the scheme is implemented it will give companies little opportunity to avoid enforcing government regulations. Zhang Baichuan, founder of network security company Youxia, believes that the goal is to “create an intimidating atmosphere inside the companies themselves.”
China has been in hot water recently for its oppressive Internet controls. Last month, Human Rights Watch criticised its proposed cyber security law, which would limit online anonymity.