More than 100 dating websites shuttered by Chinese authorities for fraud, prostitution

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 8:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 8:57am

China's internet watchdog has ordered the closure of 128 dating websites as part of a months-long campaign targeting fraud and pornography on match-making sites.

In a statement on its website, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the websites were shut down due to "a lack of registration records, intentionally leaking user information, and spreading pornography and vulgar content".

According to Xinhua, some sites also "allowed registered users to publish pornographic novels". Last year, more than 20 women were arrested in Henan province for writing online erotic fiction, state media reported.

The move comes after 65 dating sites were shuttered in February as part of the same campaign.

While fake profiles and prostitutes masquerading as matches are common on most dating sites, Chinese services long been plagued by scammers and fraudsters. A study published this month by University College London and, the country's largest dating site, found more than 57,000 accounts associated with one particular con it termed the "date for profit" scam.

The scheme, which bears many similarities to the "tea house" scam visitors to large Chinese cities are often warned of, involves a restaurant hiring an attractive woman to make multiple dating profiles. The woman then encourages her dates to take her to the restaurant, where the men are encouraged to spend lavishly and run up large tabs, after paying the bill they never hear from the woman again. 

"A meal at most of the rogue establishments can cost between US$100 and US$2,000," the researchers wrote. 

"The success rate of this type of scam is much higher [than traditional online scams] because the scammer leverages the desire of the victim to meet an attractive woman. In addition, it is likely that the victim will never realise that he has been scammed, since the date really happened, and the victim possibly had a good time." 

Aside from fraud and prostitution, the CAC campaign has also focused on enforcing real name policies. In January, Chinese authorities ordered all social networking platforms and forums to require users to register their identities, even if they used a pseudonym.