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China nabs illegal advertisers with spam

Authorities in the country are using a computer program that spams illegal advertisers' mobile phones until they turn themselves in.

Authorities in China are using a computer program that spams illegal advertisers' mobile phones until they turn themselves in.

Officials in Hangzhou, the capital of China's Zhejiang province, have developed a system that bombards mobile phones with prerecorded voice messages.

The computerized phone-spamming technology targets people who put up illegal advertisements that contain mobile numbers, according to the People's Daily newspaper.

According to the report, illegal stickers have become an eyesore in recent years, with China's coastal and urbanized areas blighted with a blizzard of advertisements.

This is because the postcard-size stickers, which promote everything from fake identity cards to counterfeit academic certifications, are cheap to produce and offer some anonymity.

The new system rings the mobile phone numbers of illegal advertisers at 20-second intervals. Upon answering the call, the wrongdoer hears a prerecorded message saying, "You have broken the law by posting illegal ads. You must immediately stop this activity and go to the Hangzhou Urban Administrative Bureau for punishment."

Those who prefer to change their number rather than face punishment incur the fees and inconvenience of switching and lose any business their ad might have generated.

The system also dents the advertisers' bottom line as ad respondents are unlikely to get through, thanks to the mobile barrage.

Law-abiding citizens need not worry about being spammed by mistake as the phone numbers are taken from photos of illegal advertisements, said Wei Yunxiang, an official with the Hangzhou Urban Administrative Bureau.

The numbers are checked manually and require the approval of a senior official before the bombardment can begin, he told the People's Daily.

CNETAsia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore.