SHANGHAI -- Chinese authorities plan to use new technology to improve surveillance of mobile phone messages amid efforts to intensify policing of private communications, reports said yesterday.
The official Xinhua news agency said the campaign was aimed at cleaning up ''pornographic, obscene, and fraudulent" phone messages that have ''infiltrated short-messaging content."
According to the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, the campaign also aims to widen surveillance of political dissent.
Beijing already screens e-mail, censors Internet chat rooms, and blocks access to foreign websites considered subversive. But mobile phone messaging -- known as short-message service, or SMS -- is a newer technology, and the government has struggled to develop ways to control it.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement protesting news that a Chinese company, Venus Info Tech Ltd., was authorized by Beijing to sell a ''real-time surveillance system" for messages sent via SMS.
The technology uses filtering algorithms created by the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences to identify key words and combinations of words that might be associated with political rumors and ''reactionary remarks," the group said.
The new surveillance systems can alert police automatically and keep records of suspicious messages, it said.
The Xinhua report did not directly mention politically unacceptable messages but noted that violent text messages or those that could ''harm economic interests" also were cause for concern.
It said providers of phone and Internet services were expected to participate on a basis of ''self-discipline."
Eleven companies have been penalized for using the Internet to provide illegal services, including online prostitution rings, it said.
Separately, a newspaper reported that China's biggest mobile phone company will start screening text messages for pornographic content.