Stock image of a man watching pornography

25,000 webcams seized in Chinese anti-voyeurism crackdown

Image credit: Dreamstime

China’s internet watchdog has announced that authorities have arrested 59 people and seized 25,000 illegally operated webcams, amid a crackdown on criminal voyeurism via webcam.

The powerful Chinese internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), published a statement explaining that it has been working with various other government bodies on the crackdown, including the Ministry of Industry and IT, the Ministry of Public Security, and the State Administration of Market Regulation.

The bodies are reportedly involved in widespread efforts to curb voyeurism conducted online such as “trading private videos”, Reuters reported.

In addition to the dozens of arrests and the seizure of 25,000 webcams, the CAC said that online platforms have “cleaned up” more than 8,000 pieces of information associated with illegal voyeurism and taken action against 134 accounts associated with the activity. Meanwhile, e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and cooperated by removing 1,600 cameras which had been advertised or sold illegally.

The crackdown comes amid a wider cleansing of the Chinese internet. In July, the CAC announced it was undergoing a “Summer Youth Network Environmental Improvement” to make the internet a safer place for minors. This will force Chinese tech giants such as Tencent to implement stricter controls, such as anti-addiction features without loopholes, provision of age-appropriate content and a curbing of over-zealous fan culture, livestreamed children and bullying.

The CAC announced at the time that it had addressed companies such as Tencent, Taobao and Weibo, among others, to discuss their alignment with the effort. Companies which fell short of expectations received fines.

The Chinese government – mirroring action taken by the US and its allies against powerful tech companies – has been curbing the influence of its largest tech giants in recent months, with a range of means of applying pressure to Alibaba and Tencent. Both of the two large tech companies are this week mired in challenges over their handling of sexual harassment and compliance with laws protecting minors, respectively.

In March, Alibaba was fined a record $2.75bn for anti-competitive behaviour; at the time the investigation opened, Richard McGregor, an East Asia economics expert at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, told AFP that: “There is an underlying political message that no company and no individual can grow so big in China to the point where they can potentially challenge the authority of the [Chinese Communist Party].”

The Financial Times estimates that the Chinese government’s tech crackdown has cut an astonishing $87bn off the net worth of the sector’s wealthiest two dozen tech tycoons.

Today, Reuters also reported that NetEase has delayed its $1bn IPO of its music streaming service Cloud Village on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, amid regulatory uncertainties facing tech companies.

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