China has a new scheme for its sophisticated internet surveillance system that is used to monitor the online activities of its citizens – identifying potential foreign targets by mining information directly from Western social media.
After reviewing hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts, and company filings, The Washington Post reports the communist regime in Beijing is using its public opinion analysis software, normally used to catch politically sensitive information online, to gather data about overseas critics using social media platforms like U.S.- based Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, the Chinese government is also ramping up its efforts to spy even more online by purchasing more refined, detailed software to do the job, the Post reported. Examples of these programs include one $320,000 program which mines Twitter and Facebook to create a database of foreign journalists and academics. Another Chinese police program evaluates Western communications on Hong Kong and Taiwan, while yet another cyber center located in Xinjiang watches for content about the country's minority Uyghur population.
Even though both Facebook and Twitter prohibit the collection of data from their platforms without prior approval, the Post reported it spoke to four people in Beijing involved in the Chinese government's covert operation who told the newspaper about the software used to collect and store data from both services in real-time for future analysis.
Mareike Ohlberg, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund who has researched China's internal public opinion network told the newspaper she thinks China's online efforts to fight a propaganda war are "terrifying."
"They are now reorienting part of that effort outward, and I think that's frankly terrifying, looking at the sheer numbers and sheer scale that this has taken inside China," she said. "It really shows that they now feel it's their responsibility to defend China overseas and fight the public opinion war overseas."
China's Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from the Post.
Communist Regime's New Steps to Limit Religious Content Online
Meanwhile, inside the communist country, the government plans to initiate a broader crackdown on all online religious content starting Mar. 1.
As CBN News reported last month, China's State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) announced new measures that will restrict all forms of religious activities online.
The new measures come after China's President, Xi Jinping spoke at the National Conference on Work Related to Religious Affairs last month where he reaffirmed that "Sinicization" of religion shall align with the CCP's goals and guidelines, Bitter Winter Magazine reports.
Sinicization was introduced in 2015 with plans to "make religious groups within China submit to socialism and the CCP's ideology by assimilating them into a unified identity with Chinese characteristics." Essentially the regime plans to co-opt religious institutions to force them to promote communism from within.
Churches, religious groups, and colleges that plan to conduct online worship services must obtain an "Internet Religious Information Service License" through one of the five legally recognized religions ( Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism) by the Chinese government. Any other reference to religion online in the communist country is illegal.
Even though churches and other religious organizations can still broadcast sermons and lessons, all of these will be checked for their content by government officials to make sure they are promoting socialist values, support the Communist Party, and are not being used to proselytize in any way, according to the watchdog Bitter Winter.
The new measures also forbid religious universities from publishing any of their internet content to the public at large and will only be designed to be viewed by their students.
Notably, the rules also include any attempt to circulate religious material to minors or "induce minors to believe in religion" will lead to the cancellation of the license.
The measures also forbid the sharing of any images or comments related to religious ceremonies.
You can read the English translation of the measures here.