A number of Chinese mobile applications have been shut down after it was revealed women on their platforms were actually automated robots, it's reported.
According to the Modern Express newspaper, police have closed down mobile apps associated with 21 companies and arrested more than 600 suspects operating across 13 provinces, after discovering that messages from some women were being automatically generated by computer programmes.
Police in southern Guangdong province began investigating in August 2017, after suspecting one app of fraudulently charging visitors to view pornographic videos which did not exist.
Further investigation found that technical personnel from at least one company had created fake "sexy girl" accounts. They wrote computer programmes which generated greeting messages and compliments from fake accounts and targeted these at newly registered users.
"They solicited gifts and posted other messages to lure the user into spending money, and thus illegally generating profit," the police report reads. It says that tens of thousands of people are believed to have been conned out of a total sum of one billion yuan ($154m; £113m).
The case has shocked but also amused social media users on the Sina Weibo microblog. "It looks like AI has finally overtaken human intelligence," says one user.
Many say that they are surprised at the abilities of the people running the bots. "With skills like these, why bother engaging in fraud?" one asks.