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Chinese arrest 9,000 cyber-crims

Halts online PR racket flooding net with negative reviews

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Chinese police have smashed over 700 cyber crime gangs and arrested nearly 9,000 alleged criminals.

The Ministry of Public Security – or police force, to you and me – announced confidently that it had cracked 4,400 criminal cases in its bid to "earnestly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the masses of the people, to purify the internet environment”.

The efforts to crack down on internet fraud, hacking, trafficking counterfeit goods, firearms and online porn are a continuation of a campaign begun back in March that has already led to thousands of separate arrests.

The MPS also trumpeted its successful smashing of what it claimed to be the country’s first illegal “internet PR network” – basically an operation offering to delete negative user-generated content for firms.

The gang – which made in excess of 10 million yuan (£992,000) - would apparently also try to extort money from businesses by threatening to actively post negative comments about them if they didn’t pay up.

The problem of post deletion is thought to be endemic in China, to the point where web giant Baidu was recently forced to sack four employees arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes in return for removing user-generated content on the popular Baidu Tieba site.

Whether the arrests will be good news for an international community beset by attacks supposedly originating in China remains to be seen.

China almost certainly has a very considerable cyber crime problem as highlighted by a recent report from the US, but it’s unclear whether these arrests are more likely to have impacted financially motivated gangs preoccupied with targets inside China rather than stealing data from abroad.

To the sceptical observer there may also appear to be – as is always the case with these announcements – an ulterior motive to the police crack down on cyber crime, namely finding a pretext to censor those critical of the government.

To this end, the police statement reveals that 1.88 million ‘harmful’ messages were deleted and 3,500 sites were shuttered as part of the campaign, with little else by way of explanation. ®

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