China / Society

China gets tough on online extortion

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-01-21 18:36

BEIJING - China's Cyberspace Administration announced on Wednesday a campaign against extortion, targeting Internet regulators and companies who take fees for deleting posts.

Online extortion and paid post deletions break the law, damage the orderly flow of information on the Internet and disrupt market order. They harm the image of regulators and the media, said Peng Bo, the administration's deputy head.

Peng said the campaign would concentrate on illegal websites, Wechat accounts, PR companies and intermediaries. "We will show zero tolerance to illegal acts," he said.

Websites publishing favorable stories in return for money have become commonplace, and some PR companies have made paid deletions their major business. They usually fabricate rumors and hype up events, taking money to delete unfavorable posts, Peng said. Some Internet regulators have abused their power and sought profits for doing exactly the same thing, harming the image of the watchdog, he added.

A three-month purge will "purify the team of Internet regulators" and "eradicate corruption" in the field.

The public can report issues via the 12377 hotline and the website, with the rewards for tipoffs reaching 50,000 yuan ($8,000).

Press extortion and blackmail is not uncommon in China. Shen Hao, journalist and publisher of the influential 21st Century Business Herald, was arrested last year with other executives of the magazine for forcing enterprises to pay "cooperation fees" to avoid negative news coverage. More than 25 other media practitioners were arrested last year for allegedly extorting "fees" in return for favorable reporting.

The campaign is organized by the the cyberspace administration, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and the ministries of public security, industry and information technology.

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