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Updated December 28th, 2023 at 12:23 IST

Chinese authorities warn against OSINT military photo sharing amid crackdown on enthusiasts

China's Ministry of State Security issues a stern warning against sharing military intelligence online, citing threats to national security.

Digital Desk
Chinese Type 55
Chinese Type 55 Ship | Image:Chinamil.com
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In the evolving landscape of open-source intelligence, where enthusiasts often share images of military equipment, particularly from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), a new warning signals a crackdown on such activities. Notably, Western experts frequently monitor these online posts to glean insights into China's military developments. However, China's Ministry of State Security is now taking a stern stance, cautioning against the unauthorized acquisition and dissemination of sensitive military information, a CNN report said. 

The Ministry of State Security, China's secretive civilian spy agency, posted a message on WeChat titled "This is a cool hobby, but you must be very careful." According to CNN, the message states that some individual military enthusiasts pose a severe threat to national military security by illegally obtaining and sharing information related to national defense on the internet. The warning specifically mentions activities around military airports, ports, and military industrial units, where enthusiasts clandestinely photograph with telephoto lenses or drones. Repeat offenders could face imprisonment for up to seven years, while first-time or occasional violators might receive a warning. 

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CCP’s security concerns and parallel measures in the US 

This move aligns with China's broader emphasis on national security, especially amid escalating tensions with the United States. The Ministry of State Security has been actively cautioning citizens through social media against exposing China's secrets and encouraging them to join the fight against espionage. The warning highlights concerns about the disclosure of operational and technical details of Chinese military hardware, with a specific focus on aircraft carriers.

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Fujian aircraft carrier. | Credit- AP

The report notes that China's newest aircraft carrier, the Fujian, weighing 80,000 tons and equipped with an advanced electromagnetic catapult system, has been a popular subject for amateur spotters. The disclosure of construction progress and technical details through online images has prompted the Ministry of State Security to take decisive action. This aligns with China's broader strategy to control information flow and enhance national security. 

Interestingly, the report draws attention to similar measures in the United States. The US Code prohibits taking photographs or representations of vital military and naval installations or equipment without proper permission, with potential penalties of up to a year in prison. Both China and the United States, recognizing the role of amateur enthusiasts in open-source intelligence, are taking steps to safeguard national security and protect military secrets. As tensions persist, these measures underscore the increasing importance both nations place on controlling the flow of sensitive information in the digital age. 

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Published December 28th, 2023 at 12:23 IST

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