Thomas Crampton

Social Media in China and across Asia

China’s 50-cent Army of Internet Astroturfers

Jul 13, 2008

Relating to my earlier video posting with Oi Wan Lam about China’s methods of manipulating the Internet, below extract is from a Far Eastern Economic Review article by David Bandurski of Hong Kong University’s China Media Project about China’s army of Internet manipulators and Astroturfers.

(Astroturfing is a great term I just learned from Paul Denlinger who wrote an interesting posting on the subject. Paul correctly criticized my use of the word Censorship to describe the Chinese government’s actions on Twitter, etc. Astroturfing is a much better term.)

Incredible, but Bandurski estimates China’s army of 50-cent-ers at 280,000 people. Even at 50-cents, that can add up to real money.

China’s Guerrilla War for the Web

They have been called the “Fifty Cent Party,” the “red vests” and the “red vanguard.” But China’s growing armies of Web commentators—instigated, trained and financed by party organizations—have just one mission: to safeguard the interests of the Communist Party by infiltrating and policing a rapidly growing Chinese Internet. They set out to neutralize undesirable public opinion by pushing pro-Party views through chat rooms and Web forums, reporting dangerous content to authorities.

By some estimates, these commentary teams now comprise as many as 280,000 members nationwide, and they show just how serious China’s leaders are about the political challenges posed by the Web. More importantly, they offer tangible clues about China’s next generation of information controls—what President Hu Jintao last month called “a new pattern of public-opinion guidance.”

It was around 2005 that party leaders started getting more creative about how to influence public opinion on the Internet…

Hat tip to Jeremy Goldkorn on Danwei

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