China plans to establish police units inside internet companies’ offices

Find me a computer.
Find me a computer.
Image: Reuters/Leo Lang
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China clearly doesn’t believe enough manpower is being spent policing the internet already; at a conference on Tuesday (Aug. 4) its ministry of public security announced that it will start placing its own officers inside the headquarters of China’s major internet companies.

The officers will form “internet safety offices” within both major websites and internet companies, according to Xinhua (link in Chinese), and will strive to rid the internet of material the government deems a threat to national security or social stability.

That will require staff hunting down “malicious” content such as violent or pornographic material, as well as rumors or stories that hurt either the authorities or disrupt the status quo. Officers will also reportedly be involved in protecting internet companies against attacks, and users from identity theft and scams.

Together, internet companies and the state already employ millions of censors to delete negative stories or counter bad news with pro-government comments, but these are typically low-level employees carrying out grunt work. The presence of public security officers and their potentially working directly with management could represent an escalation in the approach companies take to censorship.

That would certainly be in line with the government’s recent efforts to increase control of the internet. Earlier this year Xi Jinping’s administration announced a draft law calling for “cyber sovereignty” and denoting key areas of public life as matters of national security. That law goes so far as to allow local governments to cut access to the internet entirely, in the event of a public security incident.