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China to crack down on "illegal" publicity activities on Internet

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- China will launch a two-month campaign beginning the middle of this month, to crack down on "illegal" publicity activities on the Internet.

The crackdown aims to "curb a strong momentum of illegal Internet publicity activities," according to a statement Xinhua received on Wednesday from the International Communication Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Over the past several years, some publicity activities conducted over the Internet have violated the country's disciplines and laws, it said.

Some companies and individuals had recruited "Internet mercenaries" and other illegal publicity organizations to engage in improper competition against rivals, blackmailing by fabricating and distorting facts, and reaping profits by sensationalizing issues over the Internet.

Disrupting the order of market economy and undermining public interests, these activities have aroused strong discontent from the public, who demand the government regulate against such improper activities, the statement said.

According to it, the campaign will mainly target "notorious illegal Internet publicity activities" and crack major cases involving such activities.

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The statement said a work plan of the campaign had been jointly issued by the International Communication Office of the CPC Central Committee, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

The work plan has not been made public so far.

The statement did not give further information about the campaign, or specify the disciplines and laws the "illegal Internet publicity activities" violate.

China has the world's largest Internet community with some 457 million users by the end of last year.

Media reports have revealed that many seemingly spontaneous Internet sensations in the country were actually orchestrated publicity stunts. 

Last month, Zhao Qizheng, a senior official of China's top political advisory body, warned that China should be wary of "Internet mercenaries" who post comments online to manipulate public opinion.

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