China Cracks Down on Illegal Text Messaging

Nov. 11, 2005 — -- The Chinese government is cracking down on what it calls the latest threat to the safety and security of its population: cell phone text messages.

According to Xinhua, China's official news agency, the Ministry of Public Security is carrying out this month a "nationwide campaign to clean up cell phone illegal short text messaging." The government is targeting the increasing number of mobile phone e-mails that fraudulently offer a wide variety of titillating goods -- illegal items such as firearms, explosives, and narcotics; lottery winnings; pornography; and the "introduction of marital partners."

In other words, China's taking an aggressive bite into mobile spam.

MPS spokesman Heping Wu told the China Daily news organization that there are more than 400 million cell phone users in China, sending approximately 500 million text messages a day.

But illicit messages "have become a major cause of damage to social order," Wu said.

According to Wu, the security ministry already has cracked down on spammers in four Chinese provinces who may have netted up to 20 million yuan -- $2.46 million -- from victims from March to October 2005.

The security ministry is working with the Ministry of Information Industry and the China Banking Regulation Commission to beef up the cyberspace policing efforts.

Under this new effort, the MII will draft new rules that may require mobile phone operators to install systems that verify a user's real identity on all text messages. The CBRC may develop similar rules to prevent scammers from opening bank accounts under false names, according to China Daily.

MPS is also seeking help from cell phone owners, encouraging them to call a special police hotline if they receive a suspect text message.