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- China has created a website for vigilante citizens to report distorted headlines and harmful information about its military.
- The website also invites the public to report military leaks.
- China previously created software that automatically reports if a soldier leaks secret information or uses “sensitive words” online.
- Strict cyber-security laws are growing in China, where citizens’ online activity is closely monitored.
China launched a new website this week where citizens can report leaks and fake news about the military.
The move is consistent with China’s internet censorship laws, which are some of the strictest in the world.
Chinese state media reported the website, China Army Network Report Platform, “accepts tip-offs about people who pretend to be military personnel on social media, malicious posts about the People’s Liberation Army, or leaks of potentially classified information.”
But China’s military site, 81.cn, says the platform takes submissions of violations including “harmful information” or “distorting the headlines” about China’s military, “systemically editing original news” about the military, and reports “attacking” or “distorting and deconstructing the history” of the Communist Party.
The website was created to implement the “guiding spirit” of China’s Congress in order to create a “clean and bright cyber-military space,” and also accepts reports on illegal internet use by military members, including members opening unauthorized social media accounts.
President Xi Jinping said earlier this year that “strengthening cyber-defense and deterrence capabilities” is one of China’s top priorities. And after China’s top cybersecurity officials pledged complete loyalty to party leadership it was widely expected that more crackdowns would occur.
China has long tried to monitor its own military
Closely monitoring the activities of its military personnel has been longstanding policy in China.
In 2016, a long-term ban on Chinese military personnel using social media was lifted, but the military urged soldiers to use encrypted mobile programs or military internet cafes.
Earlier this year, China developed software that immediately alerts authorities if a soldier leaks sensitive data, reported the state run Global Times. The software, which can be enabled remotely, can also restrict hours of use and “screen for sensitive words.”
Internet connected wearables, like smart watches, are also banned in order to prevent leaks, according to an NBC news report.
Chinese citizens face major consequences for leaking sensitive military information.
In 2016, one man was sentenced to death for leaking more than 150,000 classified documents to an unidentified foreign power, Reuters reported.
Internet surveillance for ordinary citizens is the norm
China has been ramping up its censorship and surveillance of the internet in recent years.
In 2013, The Beijing News reported that China had 2 million people working as “public opinion analysts” which involved monitoring public opinion online.
Sweeping cybersecurity laws came into effect in June 2017. Both local and international companies must store user data in China and submit to government spot checks.
State news agency Xinhua has since reported there are more than 1000 “Internet police offices” across the country, helping “investigate illegal information” and “collect information from the public.”