Fighting terrorism online sees big strides

Updated: 2016-03-24 02:47

By CAO YIN(China Daily)

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An online team dedicated to rooting out violence and terrorism on the Internet has made a difference over the past year in ridding cyberspace of improper and illegal content, an official of China’s top Internet watchdog said.

The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center received more than 20,000 violence- and terrorism-related reports from netizens — including many parents and youngsters who frequently surf the Internet — and it ordered websites and network managers to remove 200,000 pieces of unlawful content, Zhang Chenggang, director of the center, told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

A nationwide campaign against online violence and terrorism has been ongoing for many years, but the center, established in 2005 and operated under the supervision of China’s Cyberspace Administration, determined it needed more resources to keep fighting illegal content on websites, micro blogs and text messaging sites, Zhang said.

To more efficiently monitor the Web, the center required the administration’s branches and website operators to build up their channels for detection and to provide more ways for netizens to report banned content, he said.

China has 4.23 million websites producing 40 billion pieces of content every day, “which is a huge workload for the Internet management departments to cover, let alone distinguish illegal or harmful ones from among them,” Zhang said.

The government is especially concerned by websites that promote violence and terrorism through videos and audio recordings, spread separatist messages or advocate religious extremism by posting terror messages and photos on covert sites, he said.

“Lots of terrorism-related information is hidden in cloud storage or by instant messaging tools, such as WeChat and QQ, as well as on some small online forums,” Zhang said.

Increased reporting channels have contributed to tips from netizens, and enforcement against online terrorism has improved, he said.

“On one hand, more ‘eyes’ helping us scrutinize online terrorist activity can alleviate our work burden,” he said. “On the other hand, reporting such messages is also a way for netizens to implement the rule of law while surfing the Internet.”

More tips are being provided through the center’s online reporting website, as it offers a convenient way to attach website links and screen shots, he said.

For example, a netizen reported a WeChat account that had posted a large number of photos of violence and terrorism, including photos in which a woman was beaten to death, he said.

“The clue provider sent such screen shots to us. We verified the report and asked the WeChat operator to handle the case in a timely manner, such as removing the photos or even shutting down accounts,” he said.

The administration also has recommended improved supervision of local networks. “Clue providers can decide on whether to leave their real names, ... and some of them can be rewarded if their tips prove valuable,” he said.

Last year, the center allocated more than 2 million yuan ($308,000) to tipsters who identified terrorism-related content, “which encouraged more netizens to join the fight”, Zhang said.

The center also coordinated with foreign reporting organizations to eliminate nearly 2,000 text messages, audio recordings and videos of terrorist attacks, as well as content related to child pornography, he said.