50 cents a post to make your country look better?

Joe The Plumber would approve.

Here’s more from BBC:

China is using an increasing number of paid “internet commentators” in a sophisticated attempt to control public opinion. […]

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.

Part of me thinks this is actually a smart strategy because it can be extremely hard to tell if somebody is genuine or not on the internet…especially if they argue their position passionately.

Case in point…

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.

However, the other half of me acknowledges that this was bound to backfire…and stories like this prove that. Now any posts originating from a Chinese IP address that defend Chinese policy are bound to be ignored by those in the know.

More as it develops…

Other The Chinese Internet Propaganda Machine