China Mobile apologizes for mass spreading of spam text

2008-03-20 04:46:55 Xinhua English

BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua)-- China Mobile has apologized for its management loopholes that allowed the spread of spam text messages to nearly half of the country's cell phone users.

The country's largest mobile operator has vowed to block short messages originating from the seven condemned online advertising firms on Wednesday.

The seven online advertising firms, which included the Nasdaq-listed Focus Media, arbitrarily sent commercial text messages to over 200 million cell phone users whose personal information was fully controlled by the companies, through the two operators, China Mobile and China Unicom.

This aroused anger among the target consumers and came under fierce public complaints and condemnation in the annual exposure program on China Central Television (CCTV) on March 15, World Consumer Rights Day.

"As the mobile operator, we have the obligation to block spam text messages. We hold an unavoidable responsibility in this case," marketing operations manager Xu Ming said in response to the CCTV show.

A China Mobile spokesperson said the company would work with parties concerned to clarify rules on spam message identification and blockage, and beef up technology to tighten and oversee junk commercials.

Focus Media Chairman Jiang Nanchun apologized for the trouble on Wednesday. The company said in a statement it had urged its subsidiaries to halt short message services in a clean-up campaign.

China has 555 million cell phone subscribers whose personal information is easily traded between sellers who require buyers to leave their personal information and online ad companies who can send junk messages to a target group under the guidance of such information.

In foreign countries, arbitrary trading of personal information can result in heavy fines. In China, there is no legal base for such punishment, said China Academy of Social Sciences researcher Zhou Hanhua.

Even personal safety could be harmed if the rampant trading was out of control, he said.