Chinese Internet firms to share intelligence with govt on illegal wildlife trade

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/22 20:38:39

46% of reported cases conducted online in 2016

China's Internet giants formed an alliance on Wednesday and promised to share intelligence with government on the illegal wildlife trade on their platforms to combat increasing wildlife cyber crime.

The alliance was initiated by Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, and supported by eight other Chinese Internet companies to address the illegal wildlife trade online.

The announcement was made on Wednesday during a meeting hosted by the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC), China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Beijing.

"The alliance will facilitate communication with Internet companies, as information exchanges on illegal wildlife with companies used to be passive and indirect," Chu Weidong, an official at the State Forestry Administration (SFA)'s wildlife protection department, told the Global Times at the meeting.

The SFA will also offer preferential policies and better interact with the alliance, Chu said.

Officials from the General Administration of Customs also expect to get "information, cyber crime evidence and relevant intelligence" from the alliance, which could help them keep track of clues and crack down on the illegal wildlife trade.

Members of the alliance are required to detect, remove and monitor illegal wildlife trade advertisements on their platforms and alert law enforcement departments, according to a draft charter released at the meeting. Companies also need to detect and analyze the online trend through big data and artificial intelligence.

Internet companies will detect online information by searching key words of illegal wildlife activity, suspicious messages and pictures, and through the public report.

The three major Internet companies cover China's most popular social media platforms, such as Tencent's QQ and WeChat.

The alliance comes as illegal wildlife activity has been rising online and the illegal wildlife trade has become the fourth largest illegal trade in the world after drugs, weapons and human trafficking, said experts.

More than 46 percent of reported cases involving the illegal endangered species trade were conducted online from January to May in 2016, up from 30.6 percent during the same period in 2015, data from Beijing-based IRI Internet research institute shows.

Elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, turtles, pangolin and leopards are the most illegally traded online in China, of which ivory and rhinoceros horns are the most popular items, according to a survey by TRAFFIC in 2017 sent to the Global Times.

"Wildlife is mainly used for decoration, pets, medicine or food," said Xiao Yu, a program manager from TRAFFIC. The online illegal wildlife trade goes beyond individual efforts, and the establishment of the alliance will help reduce online illegal trade activity, Xiao told the Global Times.

The alliance said it will cooperate with the government, other online companies and the logistics industry to stop the illegal trade, the alliance's charter said.

"Alibaba will appoint specialized personnel to inspect the wildlife trade on its platforms, and require sellers to pay attention to the online wildlife trade," a staffer at Alibaba told the Global Times on Wednesday.  Alibaba has opened hotlines for the public to report cases of illegal online trading and has also assigned about 2,000 volunteers to monitor and offer clues of illegal trading on Alibaba websites, he said.

Newspaper headline: Net firms to curb illegal wildlife trade


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