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Fifty Cent Party: Chinese government employs huge group of internet workers

The name originates from a popular rumor - never substantiated - that such people are paid 50 cents per pro-government post

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Chinese Government Office
Government Office of Shenyang, Wikimedia Commons

China’s government fabricates and posts several hundred million social media posts a year to influence public opinion about the country, according to a new paper by U.S. researchers examining one of the most opaque aspects of the Communist Party’s rule.

The academic study led by Harvard political scientist Gary King claims to be one of the first in-depth looks into the inner workings of China’s push to influence public opinion by flooding social media with posts portrayed as if they were coming from ordinary people.

Aside from possessing highly sophisticated censorship controls to find and delete content outright, China’s government has long been known to employ a huge group of internet workers, known colloquially as the “Fifty Cent Party,” to influence discourse in subtler ways. The name originates from a popular rumor – never substantiated – that such people are paid 50 cents per pro-government post.

File:UK-China People to People Dialogue (7083960927).jpg
source: Wikimedia Commons

 

The research project, which took advantage of a trove of government emails, spreadsheets and work reports from a propaganda office in central China leaked online in 2014, concludes that an estimated 488 million fake posts a year “enables the government to actively control opinion without having to censor as much as they might otherwise.”

The researchers also reached a slightly surprising conclusion about the goal of the massive operation: to “distract the public” during politically sensitive news events. That counters the widespread perception that Beijing employs internet workers to shut down its critics on online forums.

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“They do not step up to defend the government, its leaders, and their policies from criticism, no matter how vitriolic; indeed, they seem to avoid controversial issues entirely,” the paper’s authors write. “Letting an argument die, or changing the subject, usually works much better than picking an argument and getting someone’s back up.”

The paper detailed an elaborate methodology used by the research team, which employed its own army of research assistants. After gaining a glimpse into how China’s “Fifty Cent” operation organizes itself from leaked documents, the research group created numerous fake accounts of their own to ask large samples of suspected government workers an elaborate set of questions to confirm that the posters were indeed getting guidance from authorities.

One of the three co-authors, Margaret Roberts from the University of California, San Diego, said in an email that examining leaked documents or interviewing former participants could offer a biased view of the operation, but “large-scale statistical analyses of online data allow us to directly observe and summarize what people within the system are doing.”

The trio of political scientists, which also included Stanford University’s Jennifer Pan, has been using statistical methods for years to study China’s methods of information control, sometimes reaching somewhat unexpected conclusions.

In a 2014 study sifting through social media posts, they found that Chinese censors allowed netizens a significant amount of freedom to vent their frustrations with the government – until any calls for organized action that could lead to street protests appeared. Those were swiftly taken down. (VOA)

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Indians Always on Social Media While on Vacations, Reveals New Survey

Social media is emerging as strong driving force in creating vacation happiness with Indians being number one in always taking selfies

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The new survey reveals Indians top the list of tourists glued to their phones while on vacation.(Representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 15, 2017 : Indians top ahead of Thailand and Mexico when it comes to using social media while holidaying, says a survey conducted by Expedia.

Indians love to be connected all the time, however, it also means that they do not disconnect from work much.

Indians are globally most anxious on not being able to access WiFi or internet to check work e-mail (59 per cent). In fact they lead in showing a preference for an airline that offers in-flight WiFi (33 per cent). Hence, 14 per cent Indians are always working on a vacation, #1 globally, followed by the US (seven per cent) and Brazil (six per cent).

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Social media is emerging as strong driving force in creating vacation happiness with Indians being number one in always taking selfies (22 per cent), posting photos on social media (22 per cent), “checking in” on social media (21 per cent) and connecting with others through social media (19 per cent), said the Expedia survey.

The survey included 15,363 respondents, across 17 countries (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, India and Thailand)

The survey also highlighted that even though Indians are social media obsessed beach-goers who spend the majority of their time uploading pictures and video, 24 per cent of their compatriots find it very annoying, said the statement. (IANS)

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BBC Expands Indian Operations with Four Additional Regional Languages ; Indian Network now Biggest Outside UK

The Indian operation has now become the biggest outside the UK

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BBC news services are available online and on social media. IANS

New Delhi, October 4, 2017 : In its largest expansion drive since the 1940s, the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) has launched four news services in India in Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Telugu languages.

The new services are available online and on social media, with a Telugu TV bulletin, BBC Prapancham, starting on Wednesday, the news provider said in a statement.

BBC News already broadcasts to 28 million people in India in Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu and English.

Director of BBC World Services group, Francesca Unsworth, told reporters on Wednesday that the i.

“Our values will remain the same with the new channels, which is to inform, educate and entertain… We do not want to be restricted to Delhi-centric, capital-based reporting and will bring out the stories of rural India,” she said. (IANS)

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China pays Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, Celebrates Gandhi Jayanti in Beijing

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Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Beijing, Oct 02: China on Monday celebrated the 148th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, with the India Embassy in Beijing releasing commemorative postage stamps on the Ramayana.

Many Chinese nationals offered flowers to a statue of Gandhi at Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, while school children recited his famous quotes in Mandarin on a nippy overcast day.

“Gandhiji looked forward to a day when a free India and a free China could cooperate in friendship and brotherhood for their own good and for the benefit of Asia and the World,” Wilson Babu, Charge D’Affaires at the Indian embassy, said.

“Leaders of our two countries have been striving to build strong India-China relations based on Gandhiji’s ideals of world peace and respect for all human beings.”

In Shanghai, the Indian Consulate organised a series of events including a memorial lecture, screening of a documentary film and a painting completion for children of the Indian community.

Mahatma Gandhi has become increasingly popular in China, with many Chinese researchers studying his ideology of non-violence.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar in Gujarat to Putlibai and Karamchand Gandhi. (IANS)