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    New York Times: China to Scan Text Messages to Spot ‘Unhealthy Content’

    The New York Times has the latest salvo launched by China against individual privacy.

    As the Chinese government expands what it calls a campaign against pornography, cellular companies in Beijing and Shanghai have been told to suspend text services to cellphone users who are found to have sent messages with “illegal or unhealthy content,” state-run news media reported Tuesday.

    China Mobile, one of the nation’s largest cellular providers, reported that text messages would automatically be scanned for “key words” provided by the police, according to China Daily, a state-controlled English-language newspaper. Messages will be deemed “unhealthy” if they violate undisclosed criteria established by the central government, the newspaper said.

    The increased surveillance of text messages is the latest in a series of government efforts to severely tighten control of the Internet and other forms of communication. […]

    Although China has quietly monitored cellphone text messages for some time, Kan Kaili, a professor of telecommunications at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication, said the new measures appeared broader and more intrusive and punitive. […]

    He said the government had established no clear legal definition of unhealthy content. He also said commercial authorities like phone companies, even though government-owned, should not be involved in checking the contents of private messages. “This is totally wrong,” he said. “This violates citizens’ basic rights.” […]

    According to China Daily, the police will evaluate the text messages of users suspected of transmitting unhealthy content, and during that time, China Mobile will suspend the text-messaging function for those phone numbers. If the authorities clear a user of any violation, they will issue a certificate allowing text-messaging services to be resumed, the newspaper said.

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