Friday March 23, 2018
Home World Fifty Cent Pa...

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

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.

Related Article: Rising popularity MEA following on Social Media hits 3 Million mark

“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)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

  • Pritam Go Green

    No wonder why USA is worried about China so much. The pace at which it is emerging as a Asian superpower is simply commendable.

Next Story

Apple’s ‘Families’ to help curb kids’ screen addiction

Not only Apple, Facebook, which has over two billion users, is also making drastic changes to its News Feed that will allow users to see more updates from family and friends

Apple logo. Pixabay
  • Apple has introduced new ‘Families’ page to this website
  • The aim is to curb children’s addiction to screens
  • The app will benefit the community

To help parents control their children’s screen addiction touted as a “growing public health crisis”, Apple has introduced a new page called “Families” on its website.

The page has features like “Ask To Buy” tool that lets parents approve or decline app purchases from their device. “Find My Friends” feature lets parents keep track of their kids’ locations, get alerts when they leave or arrive somewhere, and see distances and travel times to where they are.

Apple got lukewarm response for iPhone X. Pixabay
Parents can even track the activities of their children. Pixabay

Another app management feature lets users automatically block in-app purchases. It has the option to limit adult content on kids’ devices and restricts browsing to only pre-approved websites.

“We’ve also made it easy for parents to set privacy controls on their kids’ devices. We’re continually designing new features to help make sure kids use them in the ways you want,” Apple said on the new page.

Two key Apple shareholders had requested the Cupertino-based iPhone maker to take urgent steps to safeguard young users from the ill-effects of iPhone addiction.

Also Read: Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

In a letter, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System told Apple to make its products safer for the younger users.

Not only Apple, Facebook, which has over two billion users, is also making drastic changes to its News Feed that will allow users to see more updates from family and friends than posts from businesses, brands, and media.

Facebook is also concentrating more towards friends and family of its users. VOA

According to its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has got a feedback from the community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. IANS