China is hoping to create a nation of porn bounty hunters. The country, which regards all kinds of pornography as illegal, has just doubled the reward for reporting illegal publishing to 600,000 yuan (US$86,500).

The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications—a government body tasked with cleaning up China’s web — last week issued New Measures for Rewarding Reporting on Eradicating Pornography and Illegal Content, which will become effective December 1.

But porn isn’t the only kind of content under fire. China has a habit of censoring content that doesn’t please its government. The regulations also upped fines for online and offline content that “endangers ideological security, cultural security, physical and mental health of minors” to a maximum of 50,000 yuan (US$7,200).

“I'm not going to work today,” wrote one potential porn-buster on Weibo. “I'll look everywhere for materials so I can report anyone who I find disagreeable. There’s money to be made in reporting, so what am I doing working myself to death?”

Others social media users decried the new measures, complaining that the government spends more time snooping on what adults are doing in their private lives than punishing actual criminals.

“In the era of whistle-blowing, no one emerges unscathed. Everyone will eventually be swallowed up by it,” said another Weibo user commenting on the initiative.

The regulator, which in Chinese goes by the catchy name of “Clean up the Pornographic, Strike the Illegal” (扫黄打非), has been cracking down with force this year. State media has reported that tens of thousands of illegal websites have been taken down – but the real danger is for the content makers.

Artists have taken to social media to warn their followers not to share their NSFW work.​

How much danger they could be in was illustrated this week with the sentencing of Chinese erotic writer Tianyi to 10.5 years in prison over gay scenes depicted in her novel. The news sparked outrage both inside and outside of China. But she is far from the only one caught in the crackdown that began in early 2018.

In August, the 27-year-old founder of video app Hot TV was served with a 7-year prison sentence for hosting 1,579 illegal videos on the platform, 28 of which were defined as pornographic – that’s one year in prison for every four indecent videos.

Even within private online groups, sharing explicit GIFs and videos has become risky, as shown by the case of the WeChat group admin who got 6 months in prison for allowing such content. And that sentence was considered lenient.

The campaign against illegal content is also going offline. On Friday People's Daily, known as the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published a glowing report on (mostly retired) members of a community in the Chinese city of Chengdu that spend 90 per cent of their day snooping around their neighbours' backyards and propagating the “Clean up the Pornographic, Strike the Illegal” campaign.

Rewarding retirees for reporting suspicious behavior in their neighborhood has long been a tradition in China. The Chaoyang Masses, a 140,000-strong group of senior citizen informers in Beijing, even has its own app. They are often jokingly referred to as the “world’s fifth intelligence agency”, after the CIA, KGB, MI6, and Mossad.

Other Chinese cities are also getting ready for the campaign. Huangshan City, a tourist center known for its rugged mountains, announced 340 grass-roots stations to patrol neighborhoods which will also support the crackdown on pornography.

This was just the latest measure. So far this year Huangshan has conducted 10,000 raids, sending 20,000 police officers to inspect bookstores, printing and copying firms, and internet cafes for racy content.