Number of posts by ‘fifty-cent gang’ numbers in the hundreds of millions, but their purpose is not to argue with critics, but to sing the praises of the Party
It’s an open secret that China employs a veritable army of internet commentators to sing the government’s praises and attack its critics, but researchers at Harvard University in the United States say they not only have evidence this is the case, but also what Beijing’s motive is.
The team headed by Dr Gary King, one of America’s most distinguished political scientists, carried out what they describe as “the first large-scale empirical analysis” of online comments by the notorious “fifty-cent gang” (wumao dang) – so called in the popular but mistaken belief that is what they are paid for each online post made in defence of the regime.
Over the course of a year, the researchers indentified nearly 43,800 online messages posted accordingly, finding that virtually every one of them – more than 99 per cent – were generated by employees at more than 200 government agencies.
On this basis, King’s team estimates that the Chinese government posts about 488 million social media comments a year to deflect public criticism of the authorities.
Rigorous analysis of the messages revealed the commentators typically avoid arguing with sceptics of the party and government, and shun discussions on controversial issues.
Instead, the posts are devoted primarily to distraction through cheerleading for the state or symbols of the regime, or espousing the revolutionary history of the Communist Party.
Of the estimated 448 million online messages mentioned by the team, 53 per cent appeared on government websites while the remainder were posted on popular commercial social media sites.
Full article: US researchers carry out first deep analysis of China’s government-backed internet warriors (South China Morning Post)