Chinese authorities are set to embed units of the cybersecurity police at major tech companies in order to exercise tighter control over online forums.
According to the state-run Xinhua news service, units of cyber police will start work at key websites and Internet companies in order to prevent crimes including fraud and the “spreading of rumors.” The Ministry of Public Security did not specify which companies police will work at, writes Eva Dou for The Wall Street Journal.
China’s police to work in tech company offices
A spokesman for Alibaba underlined the company’s commitment to preventing illegal activities online. “It is our priority to maintain the reliability and security of our platforms to protect our customers,” he said.
Neither Tencent nor Baidu immediately responded to requests for comment. Officials did not specify whether the police units would also work at international tech firms operating in China.
The presence of physical police units provides further evidence that Chinese authorities are attempting to exert a tighter hold on Internet activity. Earlier this year, authorities moved to ban subversive usernames on social networks.
In addition, companies which run online forums have long been expected to delete accounts responsible for spreading rumors, criticizing the Party and distributing pornography.
Cybersecurity: a hugely important international issue
The move to exert greater control over the domestic internet comes at a time of increasing tension between the U.S. and China related to cybersecurity issues. U.S. officials think that China was behind the recent hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, although they have stopped short of officially accusing Beijing.
Millions of personal records were stolen in the hack, which security experts believe is part of a Chinese effort to build a database on U.S. employees that could eventually be used to recruit informers.
A new cybersecurity law has also been proposed in China, which would afford the government a raft of new powers. The law is currently under review by lawmakers, and officials have prioritized its passing for this year.
It is thought that Edward Snowden’s claims that the U.S. government was using tech companies to spy on foreign countries provoked greater interest in cybersecurity among Chinese officials.