National Police Agency (NPA) documents instructing police to stay on top of online postings against nuclear power, the cross-strait service trade pact and wind turbines has drawn criticism that the government is trying to bring back martial law.
An anonymous netizen posted photographs on Wednesday evening of what was claimed to be documents from Special Police Second Headquarters, giving instruction for police units to establish an “Internet army” (網軍) to monitor online postings.
The documents said the first and second squads would be responsible for monitoring antinuclear sentiment, while the third squad would focus on anti-trade pact and anti-wind turbine comments.
The squads were told to immediately report anything they found suspicious, adding that such reports could earn a small merit point, but also stated “punitive measures to be discussed” if police let any information slip.
The documents said the cybertaskforce should try to neutralize any statements detrimental to the police on social Web sites and platforms. As an example, one cited a netizen’s post complaining of being injured by police that should be met with comments that the injuries “seemed to be abrasions and were not caused by batons,” or “Could it be an old wound?”
On the Professional Technology Temple (PTT) — the nation’s largest academic online bulletin board — at least 10 people were discussing the documents, with most expressing shock at the police tactics.
Some netizens commented the methods were a throwback to the Martial Law era, which lasted from 1949 to 1987.
A netizen named “azsky” said the police actions were reminiscent of the Ming Dynasty’s dong chang (東廠) and jinyiwei (錦衣衛) intelligence units.
The jinyiwei served as the emperor’s personal guard, monitoring members of the royal family and court officials. The dong chang spied on court officials, the gentry, academics and the army.
Netizen “ayaerika” said the police were attempting to assume control of the media and falsify ideals held by netizens.
There were also claims that people were offering to buy PTT accounts so that they could comment on the “gossip” forums on Internet purchasing platforms, adding that it may be a large-scale movement by the government to manipulate debates on the PTT’s forums.
The NPA confirmed that the documents were authentic, but said police would only be searching published information and would not invade civilians’ privacy.
The Special Police Second Headquarter, tasked with the safekeeping of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, science parks and processing export plants nationwide and the four nuclear power plants, is paying attention to what is being posted on Facebook and on the PTT bulletin board to prevent harm to the public, the agency said.
However, it said the term “Internet army” was inappropriate.