China / Society

Web offers 'smoke screen' for sex trade

By Su Zhou and Luo Wangshu (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-22 07:30

Use of Internet, especially mobile platforms, makes enforcement difficult, official says

Organizers of prostitution in China are using the Internet to promote their business and dodge inspections, making it more difficult for authorities to crack down on the underground sex trade, a senior official said on Thursday.

The Internet, especially through mobile platforms, is providing a "smoke screen for prostitution" and is helping to integrate the prostitution industry nationwide, the official said.

"These organizers can set up a website and coordinate related information around the country," said Xi Wei, deputy director of the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center.

The center operates under the Cyberspace Administration of China, the nation's Internet watchdog.

Xi said: "There are two ways to find customers. The first is to spread pornographic information online and attach contact information, such as by inserting subtitles on videos so that potential customers will make contact via mobile chatting apps."

The second way is by pretending to have a modeling or public relations company and then promoting prostitution services on social networking sites.

"Either way makes its more difficult for us to regulate," Xi added. From January to May, the center received more than 274,680 complaints about pornography and "lewd" content online.

The major channels for spreading pornographic content online include website portals, social networking sites, cloud storage sites and instant messaging apps.

Xi said the center has also noticed that mobile devices, rather than personal computers, are now being used to promote such services.

"More and more people are storing and spreading illegal information via mobile apps. Some websites are using big-data technology to promote pornographic information from mobile apps to a certain group of people," Xi said.

The center is staging a campaign from May 20 to June 7 to combat online pornography and to clean up the Internet for netizens, especially young people who use it frequently.

Hong Daode, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said the authorities have a strong ability to monitor prostitution on the Internet, and the Ministry of Public Security has a special department to monitor online activities.

"It is easier than before, when information about prostitutes was put up on the streets and police officers had to search for them there.

"Now, once the devices that send the information have been monitored, police can go to a place directly and make arrests," Hong said.

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