Online war on terror

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-7 21:23:01

Xinjiang authorities crack down on extremist content

A police officer looks at the screen of a computer during a competition in which officers play a virtual counter-terrorism game in Tianjin. Photo: IC

 Authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region said that they have been cracking down on online audio and video related to terrorism in the last year, as part of efforts to combat terror and maintain stability in the troubled region.

In an exclusive interview published on the official website of the Cyberspace Administration of China, Luo Fuyong, director of the Xinjiang Internet Information Office, said that his office has been exploring different ways to counter extremism online, and has launched several campaigns to cleanse the online terrorist content.

In the past few years terrorists have attacked train stations, police stations and government buildings, mostly in Xinjiang, throwing bombs at police cars and running over civilians with vehicles. The regional government said that Xinjiang police busted 181 terror groups in 2014 and 96 percent of discovered terrorist plots were disrupted at an early stage.

As Xinjiang is the frontier in the fight against separatism and terrorism, Luo called the Internet "the main battleground for ideological struggles" that is extremely important work for the Communist Party of China.

Online radicalization

Online audio and video that promote terrorism are a major cause of terrorist attacks, said Luo, adding that since June 2014, the central government has launched several special campaigns to take down online terrorist content, and harshly punish anyone that releases, spreads or stores terrorist material.

The Xinjiang government in March 2014 issued a notice that forbids the dissemination of pro-terrorism audio and video, aimed at controlling the growing number of attacks on law enforcement officers and civilians.

The notice forbids using cellphones, computers and mobile storage devices to make, send, play, copy, transfer or save such audio and video clips. Those who possess terrorist audio and video must delete or destroy the materials after the notice was issued. Individuals who cannot delete the material must submit it to public security authorities or local government within a month, the notice says.

The regulation was released in response to Xinjiang police finding that in recent years, terrorists often draw inspiration from audio and video of overseas terrorist activities.

At least five terrorist attacks on police and civilians took place in Xinjiang in 2014, said Xinjiang police, adding that they found the attackers had often been radicalized by watching videos of terrorist activities.

Luo said that his office has also been exploring ways to battle extremism offline. About 6,000 cultural activities were held in 2014 and 20,000 micro-videos were shot to demonstrate the stories of 40,000 role models.

Previous reports also said that the authorities in some areas of Xinjiang distributed brochures in December 2014 which describe extreme religious activities and the way extremists behave to educate the public on how to identify extremists, and advise them to call the police if they observe any telltale signs.

Zero tolerance

Xinjiang also established an online platform to receive reports on illegal and harmful information and offered rewards to whistle-blowers. Until now, over 1,800 online supervisors have been recruited to monitor online activities in 14 cities and prefectures. As of the end of 2015, the platform has received over 500,000 reports.

"Online rumors disturbed residents' lives and harmed the Party and government's image. It even may lead to group incidents that jeopardize social stability. We show zero-tolerance toward online rumors," said Luo, adding that nearly 1,000 people have been punished for spreading rumors.

According to previous reports, Xinjiang punished 256 people for spreading online rumors and another 139 for spreading extreme religious ideas during a crackdown on Internet crimes in 2013.

A local official said that most people involved in online crimes are not well educated and some of them are unemployed, and through spreading extreme religious ideas they gained thousands of followers.

In December 2014, local police apprehended two suspects for spreading rumors about a terrorist attack in Shache county in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture.

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