The Chinese Government has announced plans to have two virtual police officers patrolling the internet.

It aims to crack down on users of sites promoting “illicit activities” and the animated officers, a man and a woman, will appear on screens every 30 minutes “to remind them of internet security”.

China censors all internet and media content and the virtual police will be looking out for sites that promote what the Government deems to be “secession, superstition, gambling and fraud”.

The revelation comes a day after one of the major internet players, Yahoo, asked a US court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of complicity in human rights abuses in China.

The World Organization for Human Rights is suing Yahoo for sharing information about its users with Chinese state officials. Information gathered from Yahoo’s Chinese subsidiary has led to the arrests of writers and dissidents, including journalist Shi Tao who was tracked down and jailed for 10 years for subversion after his e-mail and IP address were passed to the Government.

Yahoo maintains it has no case to answer as it must comply with local laws.

Many websites are eliminated from Yahoo and Google in China, but both argue it is better to offer Chinese users some information than none at all.

Reporters Without Borders has launched a worldwide campaign to highlight internet censorship in China ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

It has released a list of nine priorities for the Chinese Government to tackle ahead of the Games.

Internet freedom is taken for granted in many countries around the world, but censorship is more prevelant than many realise and some of the biggest names in the industry are playing a part in supporting oppressive regimes.

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