Experts warn of online information security as use of new media rises in government

Updated 2017-07-27 09:14:44 Global Times

The government should be mindful of information security online despite their convenience, as more officials and government institutes in China use new media, experts said.

Recently, Yang Hongbo, deputy governor of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Zhai Qing, vice minister of environmental protection, and other officials opened a chat group on WeChat to discuss ways of protecting the source of water and curbing relevant illegal activities along the Yangtze River, the People's Daily reported.

Members of the group are required to submit weekly reports about progress of their work, according to the report, adding all members of the chat group hailed the new approach.

"The WeChat group provides a more direct and quicker way of sending and receiving messages," a group member was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"Compared with face-to-face meetings, the app does provide a more efficient way for officials to communicate," Qi Xingfa, an associate professor at the Department of Political Science of East China Normal University, told the Global Times.

Aside from WeChat, officials and government agencies have began to use public WeChat accounts and Sina Weibo to provide information and receive public feedback.

Zhao Hui, the mayor of Deyang in Sichuan, has gained popularity since he started using his Sina Weibo account for public affairs, including responding to netizens' appeals.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China, China's top discipline watchdog, launched its WeChat account in 2016 as a new way of receiving tips on the "four undesirable work styles" which form part of the government's austerity campaign, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The public can report undesirable work styles - formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance - to the CCDI through the WeChat account, according to a statement on the CCDI's website.

"Open platforms such as Sina Weibo and WeChat public account provide a convenient way for the public to speak out their opinions to the government, and it's also a way for the public to monitor the government, which keeps the government transparent and on its toes," Qi said.

However, officials should also be cautious about using social media in handling government affairs, especially with sensitive and confidential information, Zhu Lijia, a professor of public management at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times.

Qi also said sometimes it is difficult to identify group members, which makes securing information a big concern.

"We only talk about everyday work or communicate with colleagues on WeChat, but not on issues of importance," Dorje, an official from the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Northwest China's Qinghai Province, told the Global Times.

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