China's 50 Cent Army

Discussion in 'China' started by Calanen, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. Calanen

    Calanen Regular Member

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    How China's '50 Cent Army' Could Wreck Web 2.0
    January 8, 2009
    By Mike Elgan

    Mike Elgan

    Two years ago, Chinese President Hu Jintao called on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members to “assert supremacy over online public opinion, raise the level and study the art of online guidance and actively use new technologies to increase the strength of positive propaganda.”

    After Hu's speech, Communist Party officials and the State Council issued an official call for “comrades of good ideological and political character, high capability and familiarity with the Internet to form teams of Web commentators ... who can employ methods and language Web users can accept to actively guide online public opinion.”

    The CCP has hired thousands of freelance Internet propagandists whose job is to infiltrate chat rooms, message boards and comment areas on the Internet posing as ordinary users to voice support for the agenda and interest of the CCP. They praise China’s one-party system and condemn anyone who criticizes China’s policy on Tibet. They comment aggressively on news reports about China’s food-safety problems, relations with Taiwan, suppression of bird-flu and AIDS information, Internet censorship, jailing of dissidents, support of Sudan’s military in Darfur and other sensitive topics. Comments applaud the Chinese government and slam its critics, all using scripts and lines approved by the party.

    The BBC calls these freelance propagandists China's 50 Cent Party. The Guardian newspaper calls it the 50 Cent Army. (50 Cent isn’t a rapper in this case, but a reference to the pay: 50 Chinese "cents" per post, which is equivalent to about 7 US cents). Other names include “red vests” and the “red vanguard.”

    Some estimates claim that the 50 Cent Army includes a whopping 300,000 people. If that’s accurate, China's freelance propagandists exceed in number the total populations of 47 countries.

    Why This Isn’t “Astroturfing”

    Of course, the Chinese didn't invent the idea. In the US, for example, political campaigns, companies and other organizations have been known to use paid staff or volunteers to post messages en masse to create a false impression that the public supports or opposes something. A genuine bubble of opinion is called a "grass roots" movement. So faking that is called "astroturfing."

    The difference between China's 50 Cent Army and astroturfing is fourfold. First, is scale. A typical astroturfing campaign might involve a few or maybe a dozen people at most. Or, in the case of a mass mailing, it could involve thousands of people who voice or submit their opinions only once or twice. China's approach involves thousands of times more people.

    The second difference is duration. China's 50 Cent Army works every day, all year, year after year. Astroturfing efforts, on the other hand, are one-off projects designed to achieve specific, limited goals. The reason is that a free press and the machinations of multi-party democracy quickly expose astroturfing projects and turn public opinion against their agendas. Because the Chinese government is accountable to neither the public nor the press, it can sustain Internet mass-propaganda efforts indefinitely.

    Third, China's 50 Cent Army, when used abroad, hits people who aren't expecting it. When a political group in the US fakes a grass roots movement, it does so in an environment where people are skeptical and have their guards up. But most people in the West have no idea that China is constantly swaying public opinion on the Internet, and tend to accept what they see at face value.

    And finally, China's degree of organization far exceeds any known effort elsewhere. The government's Culture Ministry reportedly trains and even certificates Web propagandists. It’s run like a professional organization.

    How This Affects You and Me

    Criticism of the Chinese government abroad is often countered by the argument that China's political system is an "internal matter" -- something that's none of the business of outsiders. But China’s 50 Cent Army is everybody's business.

    With 300,000 people, you can see how the CCP could easily determine what makes it onto the front page of Digg, and what gets shouted down. They could use Wikipedia, YouTube and Slashdot as their most powerful tools of global propaganda. It would be trivial for China to determine Yahoo's "Most Popular" news items ("Most E-Mailed," "Most Viewed" and "Most Recommended").

    Over the long term, the existence of China’s 50 Cent Army erodes the value of the Web 2.0, which is based entirely on the actions of users. If half those users are working for the CCP, then the results of user actions are compromised. Nobody can trust it.

    It’s also yet another threat to Internet anonymity, which is already under pressure from legislators and some organizations who believe that anonymous posts create opportunities for fraud, deception and the exploitation of children. The more China’s 50 Cent Army succeeds, the more support will fall behind the idea of fixing the problem by illegalizing anonymity.

    Ultimately, China’s 50 Cent Army threatens free speech. And although new threats to free speech are constantly being invented – the 50 Cent Army being one of the most recent innovations – the defense of free speech is always the same: More free speech.

    So be on the lookout for the CCP’s paid posters, and oppose them at every opportunity.
    How China's '50 Cent Army' Could Wreck Web 2.0
     
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  3. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    China's '50-cent party' posters

    China's '50-cent party' posters

    By Michael Bristow
    BBC News, Beijing

    China is using an increasing number of paid "internet commentators" in a sophisticated attempt to control public opinion.

    These commentators are used by government departments to scour the internet for bad news - and then negate it.

    They post comments on websites and forums that spin bad news into good in an attempt to shape public opinion.

    Chinese leaders seem aware that the internet - the only public forum where views can be freely expressed - needs close attention.

    China's Communist Party leaders have long sought to sway public opinion by controlling what the media can report.

    That policy was extended to the internet, and many websites are blocked by a system sometimes dubbed the "great firewall of China".

    Rumours and opinions

    But cyberspace - where views can be expressed instantly and anonymously - is not as easy to control as traditional news outlets.

    Comments, rumours and opinions can be quickly spread between internet groups in a way that makes it hard for the government to censor. So instead of just trying to prevent people from having their say, the government is also attempting to change they way they think.

    To do this, they use specially trained - and ideologically sound - internet commentators.

    They have been dubbed the "50-cent party" because of how much they are reputed to be paid for each positive posting (50 Chinese cents; $0.07; £0.05).

    "Almost all government departments face criticism that is beyond their control," said Xiao Qiang, of the University of California at Berkeley.

    "There is nothing much they can do, other than organise their own spinning teams to do their public relations," said the journalism professor, who monitors China.

    Spin machine

    A document released by the public security bureau in the city of Jiaozuo in Henan province boasts of the success of this approach.

    It retells the story of one disgruntled citizen who posted an unfavourable comment about the police on a website after being punished for a traffic offence.

    One of the bureau's internet commentators reported this posting to the authorities within 10 minutes of it going up.

    The bureau then began to spin, using more than 120 people to post their own comments that neatly shifted the debate.

    "Twenty minutes later, most postings supported the police - in fact many internet users began to condemn the original commentator," said the report.

    These internet opinion-formers obviously need to show loyalty and support to the authorities. They also need other skills, as a document from the hygiene department in the city of Nanning in Guangxi province makes clear.

    "[They] need to possess relatively good political and professional qualities, and have a pioneering and enterprising spirit," the document said.

    They also need to be able to react quickly, it went on.

    'Tens of thousands'

    The practice of hiring these commentators was started a couple of years ago by local governments which found it hard to control public opinion.

    They could not rely on Beijing to monitor and block every single piece of news about their localities, so they came up with their own solution.

    Internet commentators have now become widespread, according to experts. Some estimate that there are now tens of thousands of them.

    There are also reports that special centres have been set up to train China's new army of internet spin doctors.

    Their job is more important than it would be elsewhere in the world.

    "Politically, the internet is more important in China than in other societies because it's the only public space where people can express themselves," said Professor Xiao.

    That is a point that has not escaped Chinese President Hu Jintao.

    When he chatted online in an internet forum earlier this year he said it was important to set up "a new pattern of media guidance" for the internet.

    China's teams of state-sponsored commentators have a lot of work ahead of them.
     
  4. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    It will be funny if every Chinese with an internet connection is a part of the 50 Cent Army.:sarcastic:
     
  5. badguy2000

    badguy2000 Respected Member Senior Member

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    it is more funny that I still can not get one peny.....where is my 50 cents?

    it must be taken by corrupted chinese officials... damn~

    I want my 50 cents.

    I want my 50 cents,,,just I want freedom....:)
     
  6. Soham

    Soham DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    The favourite western line to soviet defectors used to be, "Welcome to freedom ! Welcome to democracy !" :wink:
     
  7. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Who knows, if one of our forum members could also be a 50 cent poster :D
     
  8. Ratus Ratus

    Ratus Ratus Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Is this where the phrase 'truth being hidden by jest' gets dragged out?
     
  9. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    You will need to register first. Speak to your ISP.:D
     
  10. tharikiran

    tharikiran Regular Member

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    don't tell me the Chinese members in our forum are part of the 50 cent team.
     
  11. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    That's why the disclaimer "who knows?" :D
     
  12. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Before the Olympics, there descended this horde with idiotic posts.

    Surprisingly, in some Forums, the Moderators failed to see the game! They (the Mods) were not collaborators or anything like that. They were simply good men!

    You can't underestimate the Chinese is what I say.

    Clever little tykes!

    And the Communist Chinese are sly like hell!
     
  13. Calanen

    Calanen Regular Member

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    Yes in some other forums I have been on, they were there in droves. They are pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for. A Chinese dissident was very good at embarassing them on one forum. He had some pipeline to their orders, and kept posting them in the forum. The Wu Mao or 50 Cent Army went berserk. They go really wild if you uncover their game.
     
  14. Dark Sorrow

    Dark Sorrow Respected Member Senior Member

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    Wow, is it really true !!!
    I never heard forget heard i never dreamed that such thing can also happen. Is there any method to identify such a individual?
    CCP must really be despirate to resort to such cheap tatics.
     
  15. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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  16. s002wjh

    s002wjh Senior Member Senior Member

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    i seriously think the chinese don't need such tactic, since most chinese are pretty nationalist at the current moment. remember the tibet riot when tons chinese netzen criticize western media for bias report. + most chinese i spoken to in the state are pretty happy with the government.
     
  17. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    They exist on each and every forum that will talk against China (may be except Tibetan forums :blum3:). We call them Chinese drones :D.

    Read through the news posted and the youtube video.
     
  18. Calanen

    Calanen Regular Member

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    Whether you think they need it doesnt matter, their President thinks they do!

    Communist regimes are obsessed with propaganda. And people really do believe what they hear, no matter how incredible.
     
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Totally correct.

    The people believe what they are told to believe.

    In China, the role of the press had traditionally been described as hou she or throat or tongue of the government.
     

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