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China deploys virtual coppers

Prowling the net for 'illicit' activity

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China has announced it will this Saturday send out two virtual coppers to patrol all Beijing-based news portals, websites and online forums as part of the Communist state's ongoing war against "illicit" net activity, Reuters reports.

According to China Daily, the male and female officers "will appear either on motorcycles, in a car or on foot, at the bottom of users' computer screens every 30 minutes to remind them of internet security". An official from Beijing municipal public security bureau explained: "They will be on the watch for websites that incite secession, promote superstition, gambling and fraud."

Quite how the pair will enforce the law is not clear, but the paper said that "users could click on the pop-up icons to link to an internet surveillance centre where infractions could be reported".

The e-plod are the latest cunning Chinese plan to purge the internet of subversive material. Back in April, the authorities announced a six month crackdown on net pornography targetting "cyber strip shows and sexually explicit images, stories and audio and video clips". The campaign was launched after China's top Red, Hu Jintao, pledged to "purify the internet environment".

The powers that be reckon they've had some success. China Youth Daily reports that around 40 online smut novels and related websites had been "blacklisted" for "damaging young people's hearts".

In Beijing, meanwhile, the municipal public security bureau's internet surveillance centre reported the detection of 128,000 web pages containing pornographic content and the closure of 244 sites. The centre's deputy chief, Zhao Hongzhi, admitted: "We have achieved visible results in recent months but there is still a long way to go."

In the end, this "long way" may be considerably further than the authorities imagine. As Reuters puts it, despite a "vast system of filters and tens of thousands of internet monitors employed to wipe out salacious content and ideas contrary to Communist ideology, pornography is rife". ®

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