China claims thousands of cybercriminal arrests
(CBS News) There are estimated to be more Chinese people using the Internet right now than there are inhabitants of the North American continent, so the possibilities for cybercriminals in the country are profuse. Additionally, in China, there is almost certainly a longer-than-average list of online activities considered to be criminal, as the Communist government there considers speech against it to be a serious, punishable crime.
So when state media reports, as it did Wednesday, that 10,000 alleged cybercriminals have been arrested, the reasons for which they have been arrested must be taken with a grain of salt.
The Xinhua news agency wrote: "Chinese police have busted more than 600 criminal gangs for Internet-based crimes such as spreading lewd content, arms dealing and illegally collecting citizens' personal information since a special campaign was launched in March."
In addition to the detained suspects and busted gangs, Xinhua wrote: "3.2 million 'harmful' online messages had been deleted."Murder charges filed in China political scandal
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For its part, the government admitted in a statement that there was only so much they could do against the problem: "Although illegal and harmful information on the Internet has been reduced sharply through intensified crackdowns, fraudulent messages are still seen occasionally ... and some telecom service providers are not strict enough when managing websites."
The state media report on the crackdown dovetails with local reports of Internet crackdowns. The BBC reports 5,007 people suspected cybercriminals were arrested in Beijing recently, and 263 internet cafes were closed as part of the city's efforts to "protect the physical and mental health of young people."
The chief of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Fu Zhenghua, said users faced being severely punished if they "attacked" the country's leaders online, the BBC reports.
"It's increasingly difficult for the authorities to control what people are saying bearing in mind the rise of 'netizens' - individuals sharing their opinions over the internet," Oliver Barron, from the investment bank NSBO, told the BBC. "People have felt that they could speak out because of the anonymity the net offered, which is why the government is now cracking down on this, demanding that people register their accounts with their real names."
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