You Can Make $120,000 by Reporting Porn to the Police in China

The government recently doubled the bounty for pornbusters who snitch on people publishing illicit content.

|
Dec 7 2018, 3:10am

Images via Shutterstock (L) and Shutterstock (R)

There’s a relatively quick and easy way to get your hands on the equivalent of A$120,000 in China. You find someone who’s publishing pornographic or illegal content, and you report that person to the authorities. In China, every kind of porn is illegal, and the government recently doubled the reward for any “porn bounty hunters” who snitch on smutty distributors.

The government body charged with cleaning up China’s web is known as The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, and last week they rolled out New Measures for Rewarding Reporting on Eradicating Pornography and Illegal Content, Tech in Asia reports. As of December 1st, citizens who flag illegal content—online or otherwise—will be rewarded with a hefty cash sum of 600,000 yuan (A$120,555). That’s a pretty spicy offer, considering the average annual salary of an employee in urban China was just 74,318 yuan in 2017, according to Statista.

This is the latest example of the country’s online regulator—which in Chinese goes by the name of “Clean up the Pornographic, Strike the Illegal”—cracking down hard on illicit publishers. Tens of thousands of illegal websites have already been taken down, according to state media reports. And the lucrative new cash incentives are poised to recruit a whole new wave of pornbusters around the nation.

“I’m not going to work today,” wrote one potential informant on the popular social media platform Weibo. “I’ll look everywhere for materials so I can report anyone who I find disagreeable. There’s money to be made in reporting, so what am I doing working myself to death?”

The regulator has also slammed social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat for negligence and “irresponsibility” around illegal content, Times of India reports. The real danger is for the content makers themselves, though—not just those who produce expressly pornographic materials, but also those who hew a little too close to the NSFW category. Multiple artists have taken to social media to insist that their followers not share examples of their more adult pieces of work, according to Tech in Asia.

Last month, an author writing under the pseudonym Tianyi was sentenced to ten-and-a-half years in prison for producing and selling pornographic materials after her gay erotic novel Occupy—or Gongzhan in Chinese—went viral, The Guardian reported. Local police claimed the novel—which told the tale of a “forbidden love affair between a teacher and a student”—was “full of perverted sexual acts such as violation and abuse.” Her sentence was based on a judicial interpretation dating stating that if an author sells more than 5,000 copies of pornographic books it is an “especially serious circumstance” that carries a sentence of imprisonment for not less than a decade, according to South China Morning Post.

A month before that, the administrator of a WeChat group was sentenced to six months in prison for “distributing” illegal content, Sixth Tone reported. Other members had been sharing pornographic images within the group.

The hefty new cash incentives are, of course, being used to outsource informants and incentivise everyday citizens to take part in the Chinese government’s war against porn. But the idea of rewarding members of the public for snitching on suspicious behaviour is nothing new. A 140,000-strong group of senior citizen informers in Beijing known as “The Chaoyang Masses” are jokingly referred to as the world’s fifth intelligence agency, and even have their own app.

Similarly, in 2013, a third-party internet security firm in Beijing called Anquan posted a job listing for a “chief porn identification officer” on its Weibo account, Business Insider reported. The successful applicant would be paid 200,000 yuan a year to “Research and study pornographic videos and images, formulate criteria for determining obscenity” and “Manage and rate pornographic resources.” They would also be provided with free fruits and yogurt each week day.

These crackdowns are part of a broader campaign to censor speech and information online, as the Chinese government pushes to “promote the healthy, orderly development of the Internet, protect state security and public interest.” And it's not just porn that's in the firing line. Any content that doesn't please the government, or that the government thinks “endangers ideological security, cultural security, physical and mental health of minors”—especially political content—is often classified as illegal and policed by regulators.

"Illegal" is used as something of an umbrella term here, further encompassing anything that "endangers national unity", "leaks state secrets", and "disturbs social order". Importantly, such loose definitions can be easily applied to rights campaigners and dissidents within China, and employed as justification for authorities to punish, silence, or suppress anyone that is seen to be at odds with the government regime.

Follow Gavin on Twitter or Instagram

More VICE
Vice Channels