China wants authorities to play a bigger role in maintaining Internet security and coordinate with regulators to curb illegal online activities. Reuters

The Chinese government plans to tighten its grip on the country’s Web users by setting up “network security offices” in major Internet companies and for websites, China’s ministry of public security announced Tuesday. The move is said to be part of the government’s attempt to crack down on illegal online behavior.

Chinese authorities have been trying to gain more control over Internet usage in the country in recent years, and have issued warnings to social media companies like Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sina Corp. for not taking adequate measures to remove pornography, scams, rumors or politically sensitive content from their websites, Reuters reported.

“We will set up ‘network security offices’ inside important website and Internet firms, so that we can catch criminal behavior online at the earliest possible point,” Chen Zhimin, China’s deputy minister of public security, said in a statement, adding that police should play a bigger role to maintain online security and coordinate with Internet regulators.

“As the country enters the Internet age, network security has become a national security issue and social stability issue, important to economic development and a serious day-to-day working issue for citizens,” the ministry said.

According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, the latest move by the government will improve surveillance by cyber police and curb illegal activities.

Last month, the Chinese government published a draft cybersecurity law, which strengthened its control over data by allowing authorities to obtain records on the users’ private information that the government deemed illegal, according to Reuters. The new law is also expected to allow national and local governments to block Internet access in cases of major public security incidents, Bloomberg reported.

“The Chinese have gotten increasingly worried that they do not have the right kind of regulations, protections and responses in place,” Adam Segal, a China and cybersecurity scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, told the Wall Street Journal last month. “There is a real sense that there needed to be some type of regulatory response to potential attacks.”