Exposing the Illegal Monitoring of the Internet by the Public Information Internet Monitoring Bureau
(Clearwisdom.net) The Public Information Internet Monitoring Bureau, a division of the Ministry of Public Security, was officially founded in late 2000, and the "internet police system" can now be found in 31 provinces, cities and autonomous regions throughout China. Under the Jiang regime, this bureau monitors Internet cafés, websites, regional networks and personal computers. The direct result of this is that the government, the Internet Service Providers and the Internet users have to bear significantly increased costs, have their freedoms infringed upon, and a huge amount of resources are wasted on web monitoring. Many overseas websites cannot be viewed, and Internet users in China have no privacy online.
The bureau will indiscriminately block numerous websites in an attempt to block one website that is their actual target. Other than monitoring the end user, the bureau also installs monitoring software at the ICP network connection, which can be done after obtaining permission from Internet providers and the telecommunications companies. Because of the information filtering, some websites cannot be opened, and users complain of poor quality, slow speed and poor service from the telecommunications company.
The Information Security Center of Beijing University of Postal and Telecommunications was one of the first to present a filtering program that uses key words to block websites. In 1998, the center came up with a personal firewall that would filter information on the main server computer. The technology involved is quite simple, which is to list the URLs of "unhealthy" websites and filter them out. But this method quickly fell out of favor. In 2001, the center developed "Hanbo Monitoring Software" according to standards set by the Ministry of Public Security. This software has "key word filtering" and "association" functions. To use "key word filtering," a set of words are inputted and the software determines whether to filter the "unhealthy" message based on the frequency of the key words in the message. The center claimed, "the software is more than 95% accurate and the margin of error is less than 5%." "Association" means that a key word model is made, in which the sequence of certain words and the space allowance between them are embedded in the software, in case the "key words" are written with gaps between them in a message. To ensure the maximum blockade of "unwanted information," the Internet companies often compile "suspicious words" into a huge "blacklist" to be filtered out, and this sometimes prevents normal words and phrases from showing up as well.
1. Illegal monitoring of Internet cafés
In 2002, in order to find excuses to control the Internet, the Jiang regime launched a battle against Internet cafés after a fire destroyed the Blue Ultra-speed Internet Caf?in Beijing. They pushed the Internet Caf?to the spotlight and took control of the use of the Internet, from security supervision to content control.
Beginning in May 2002, the Chinese government launched a large-scale campaign known as the "targeted cleanup of harmful information on the Internet." By November 2002, nearly half of the 200,000 Internet cafés were closed and the remaining ones were ordered to install monitoring software linked to the Ministry of Public Security.
The 2002 "Management Regulations for Internet Service Providers" outlined a "real name registration requirement." At first, the police only asked Internet users to manually register when they came to an Internet caf? but soon an "electronic ID card" was required. All Internet cafés were also forced to install "Internet caf?management software," which automatically records URLs of all websites accessed in the past 60 days, while the IC card records the name, address, ID card number and other personal information of every Internet user. It's possible for the police to find every Internet user with the recorded information.
For example, after the Chinese New Year in 2003, Liu Fuhai and his colleagues, the Internet police at the Public Information Internet Monitoring Division of Jinzhou Police Department in Liaoning Province, were busy installing the "Liaoning Province Internet caf?registration management software" in nearly 600 Internet cafés in the city. From then on, people had to buy an IC card with their ID, and they could not use a computer at an Internet caf?without swiping their IC card first. This software is able to filter and screen out tens of thousands of websites that contain "illegal information." If someone accesses an "illegal website," the software will alert the Public Information Internet Monitoring Center, at the same time showing the Internet caf?address and code number of the offending computer, thereby allowing the police to quickly track down the caf?owner and the user. From one computer in the Public Information Internet Monitoring Division of Jinzhou Police Department, the police are able to monitor activities on about 20,000 computers in 600 Internet cafés in the city. At the same time, the Internet police may also sort through websites, and they periodically go to Internet cafés and websites to investigate and check out records of activities there as well.
Jinzhou City, Yingkou City, Dandong City and Dalian City were the first to install the trial software. According to a source from the Public Information Internet Security Monitor Division of Liaoning Province Public Security Department, there were more than 7,000 Internet cafés in Liaoning Province in 2003, and all of them would be forced to install the monitoring software. In Liaoning Province, about 40% of Internet users access the Internet through Internet cafés, and the police can closely watch their every act online.
This monitoring system was quickly promoted across the whole country. As of April 27, 2004, an official of the Ministry of Culture said that by the end of 2004, all Internet cafés in China would have installed the "Internet Online Service Provider Computing Management System." Through this system, the police and culture administration departments would be able to comprehensively control all Internet cafés.
2. Illegal monitoring of online chat-rooms
Sina is probably the largest and the most active online media in China. It has more than 100 BBSs and more than 100 chat-rooms, which at peak hours may have more than 60,000 people talking to each other at the same time. On an average day, tens of thousands of messages are posted on the BBS. Sina itself also posts as many as 10,000 news items, an equivalent to 300 pages of newspaper, and each news item is often followed with many posts written by readers.
The Sina community administrators often have open web pages on their screens, as well as common chat tools such as QQ or MSN. They patrol the forums and at the same time quickly delete "illegal" messages. Many people who posted messages on Sina have had the experience of receiving a message saying, "Please pay attention to your choice of words, thank you for your cooperation" after they typed their message. There is no explanation, and people are very often at a loss as to why their message was inappropriate and could not be posted.
Here is another example to show how fearful the Jiang regime is of online chat-rooms. In 2003 when they were desperately trying to cover up the SARS epidemic and to stop "rumors," even the word "SARS" (which are two common Chinese words put together) was filtered out in some online chat-rooms.
According to Mr. Li, the manager of a large website, more than 100 "key words" are set up on the firewall of his website, and individual chat-rooms and BBSs also have their own key words. These key words are determined by regulations and decided after consultation with related government agencies. They are updated and increased as the situation changes.
3. Internet patrols and spying
According to reports, Mr. Li has hundreds of professional or volunteer Internet monitors working for him, who monitor the websites around the clock. Each person is in charge of dozens of chat-rooms. They have received professional training with approved certification. Internet users nickname these monitors "madams" or "online joint defense forces." Four to five a.m. is the busiest time for these Internet patrolmen, because that is when the peak access time begins, which is also the time when they need to quickly delete "harmful information" from the websites.
It is hard for several hundred patrolmen to control tens of millions of Internet users. According to Mr. Li, there are also volunteer assistants (also called Internet spies) working for him. They would immediately notify the patrolmen of any "abnormal situation," delete the information, kick out the person who posted it from the BBS or chat room, and report to the police.
Another group of "assistants" are the BBS owners. Sina has dozens of BBS owners and volunteer coordinators. According to the main administrator of Sina customer service, BBS owners must respond to all "harmful information" within 30 minutes of posting, and they can delete the message or even block the IP. The BBS owners can kick out the violator, remove that person's ID from the system, or block the person's IP. A government document has the following exposition regarding BBS owners and coordinators, "BBS owners must have political awareness and a strong sense of responsibility, must maintain a high level of political alertness, and have a broad knowledge base and wide life experience, so that they can play a role in checking Internet content."
In fact, it is not altogether unjustifiable for appropriate online supervision and management to exist, and generally acknowledged harmful information, such as information that instigates racial hatred and child pornography, etc. should be filtered out. However, the Jiang regime's control over the Internet is based on consolidating Jiang's personal political power, and their control is by nature a political attack and information blockade under the disguise of preventing pornography and other harmful information. What they are trying to achieve is to block factual information from reaching millions of the Chinese people. Almost all the news items that do get published in Chinese media have been filtered. People who access the Internet in Mainland China know very well that they can easily find pornography on numerous websites, and they can also access pornography websites based outside China without any difficulty. The Jiang regime has never been truly interested in blocking those types of websites.