China Sends Internet Police into Tech Companies

by Paul Davies, August 20, 2015

Tech companies operating in China may soon have some new colleagues: the police. The Chinese government is planning to send Internet Police into Tech Firms in an effort to stop fraud and what has been described as the “spreading of rumours,” Chinese state-run media has reported.

What is the Aim?

The plan is being pitched as one that will allow the government to crack down on cyber-criminals but it is being viewed by some as part of the Chinese governments ongoing censorship of the Web.

China has some of the toughest Internet censorship policies in the world, with access to popular sites such as Google, Facebook and YouTube blocked. Earlier in the year, China increased its Internet filtering policy, making it increasing difficult for users to circumvent government blocking of sites. China has developed its own social media sites such as Sina Weibo, which is a cross between Facebook and Twitter, but such sites have come under attack for being quick to censor content and ban users for posting anything that might set the government in a bad light. Last year some users were detained for posting photos of the Occupy Hong Kong Demonstrations.

However, having police physically present within the offices of Internet companies is a bold new move. Little is known about how the police will actually operate within the companies, what training they will receive and how police stationed in these “network security offices” are suppose to combat crimes committed by cyber-crimes such as hacking, data leaks, and drugs and arms deals.

What Will Change?

It is not yet clear which companies will be affected by the change in policy but in a statement, China’s Ministry of Public Safety said its efforts would be focused on “important website and Internet firms.”

While it is almost certain that China’s big Internet companies such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent will be impacted by the new policy, it is less clear if international companies operating within China or smaller domestic companies will be affected.

The actual impact could be relatively small as tech companies within China already work closely with the government and police. There is a fear that actually having police officers physically present in offices will lead to more aggressive self censorship.

The Reaction

The announcement comes at a time of heightened tension between China and the U.S in relation to cyber-security. A recent cyber attack on the U.S Office of Personnel Management resulted in millions of of personnel records and some sensitive security-clearance information being lost. While the Obama Administration has not publicly accused any nation or group of being behind the attack, off the record many believe China is the number one suspect.

A White House National Security Council spokesman voiced concern about the Internet Police initiative, saying, “The United States’ commitment to Internet freedom reflects our deep-seated belief that individuals have the same universal human rights online and offline.”

Large Tech companies which operate within China such as Apple and LinkedIn are yet to comment on the announcement by the Chinese Government.

The reaction at EasyHide VPN has been one of relief that we don’t have the Internet Police coming to visit our offices.