Asia is often noted for its use of online currency and virtual goods stores (where no physical item is purchased — Grey Review estimates Facebook social gaming alone generates close to $6.5m in the region – which doesn’t include China) which helps explain the latest initiative from the police in China who are offering virtual rewards, from Tencent-owned QQ store, alongside cash for information relating to crimes.
Earlier this month, the public security bureau in Sayibak district of Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, posted a photo on its website showing a crime scene. It said anyone providing information about the case could be rewarded 500 to 5,000 yuan ($75 to 750), either in real money or QQ coin.
QQ coin is the virtual currency used for payment of virtual items and services on QQ, China’s most popular online instant-messaging network.
According to Tencent, the creator and owner of QQ, the platform had 636 million actives users by Sept 30, with a peak of 118 million online at the same time.
Since the notice was posted on Dec 16, several other websites, including sina.com, qq.com and ifeng.com, posted the notice, which received more than 800 hits.
The bureau told China Daily it is the first time they have tried to gather clues through the Internet.
“We haven’t got any really useful or valuable information so far, but we believe it gives us a broader range of help by counting on netizens, such as QQ users, simply because there are so many of them, and offering QQ coins actually gets more of them interested,” one official from the police bureau who declined to give his name – and is also a QQ user – told China Daily.
“Police especially have to keep up with the times, and it is both necessary and helpful to mix traditional investigation methods with modern information tools and platforms,” he said.
Although the additional of virtual rewards has not yet yielded any additional information, this is an incredibly refreshing and progressive approach from a country with, ironically, the world’s most active online censorship system.