Newest Industry To Be Crowdsourced? Internet Censorship

from the is-there-anything-that-can't-be-crowdsourced? dept

Wikipedia crowdsourced Britannica. Threadless did the same with graphic T-shirts. Amazon's Mechanical Turk helped crowdsource the search for Steve Fosset. Now, the Chinese Internet censors are using the process to aid in their control of information online. Since 2007, when President Hu Jintao called for the state to "study the art of online guidance and actively use new technologies to increase the strength of positive propaganda," China's Culture Ministry has regularly held training sessions for the so-called "50 Cent Party." These Chinese netizens get their name from the reported 50 Chinese cents that they are paid for each post supporting state policy that they make in popular forums and online portals. Rebecca MacKinnon, a noted Chinese Internet scholar and co-founder of Global Voices Online, says "it's clear that there's a lot more than censorship going on: in addition to censorship there's information management, message management, and "astroturfing.""

Although the propaganda posts seem to have been effective in the past, notably stirring up anger against CNN for its coverage of the March 2008 protests in Tibet, the fact that the government must pay these citizens suggests that the desired message is not supported as deeply as the opposition. After all, cyber-dissidents are not being paid to voice their opinions which place them in danger of legal troubles. Further, as has happened in the United States when "astroturf" campaigns are uncovered, will the knowledge that pro-government web content is potentially paid make it less compelling to the average reader?

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  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 16 Jul 2008 @ 7:21am

    Advertising = Content = Propaganda

    > "will the knowledge that pro-government web content is potentially paid make it less compelling to the average reader?"

    My gut says, "No". At least, not significantly. Propaganda is just more content. As you like to point out, content is advertising and advertising is content. Does knowing an advertisement is paid for make it less compelling? Perhaps. You might think differently about it because you know the publisher has an interest. But if it's good content you might still pay some attention, and at least part of the message might sink in.

    There is still the possibility of a negative response to the 'astroturfing', but I don't think that will make much difference. People there already know about it, and have known for years.

    My college room-mate spent two years in China teaching English, and from him I learned that the culture as a whole is surprisingly tolerant of the censorship. People there have been censored their whole lives, and have never seen an internet without it. They really believe it's for their own good.

    Of course, much of that may be the result of previously successful propaganda campaigns, and individuals may be annoyed with it from time to time, even to the point of speaking out and being labeled as a dissident and persecuted. And that, of course, if very bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ruin20, 16 Jul 2008 @ 7:49am

    Average reader and Target reader

    The purpose of propaganda is not to sway the knowledgeable individual, but the ignorant individual. If someone is well read then they're not going to be fooled by a piece of propaganda.

    Even when this is exposed and the networks to they're typical FUD thing, most people are not going to go back and associate the post that they've read and accepted as some paid propaganda campaign. That would imply that they accept they got fooled, and no one wants to do that.

    In other words, the target audience is ignorant enough not to know better, and probably to lazy to filter the information they receive by source. They're just casually pursuing data and not applying any real rigor to their investigation. Unfortunately, to me this does sound like the average reader in my opinion. So regardless of this getting outed or not, I don't think it'll have any effect on the effectiveness of the program. The only question in this gamble is how upset will everyone be if they found out, and weather the propaganda campaign can offset that resentment.

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  • identicon
    xs, 16 Jul 2008 @ 8:12am

    Author needs to research before writing stupid article

    The author of this article obviously hasn't researched the subject enough. The so called "50 cent party" is just a play on the so called "5 cent party", those people who were seen as agent of Western countries (USA in particular), hell bent on spreading western lies and western propagandas for 5 US cents per post. Then the term "50 cent party" were created to characterize those who will defend each and every Chinese government policies and actions, no matter what.

    The terms originated when someone joked that those "5 cent party" are so tireless in posting western propagandas that they must have been paid by the US government, and 5 cents were settled as a reasonble amount. The term "50 cent party" is just a convenient currency conversion from 5 US cent to Chinese cent. They didn't use real exchange rate, because "37.6 cents party" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

    So you see, nobody was actually paid a fixed amount for each post. It's certainly reasonable to think there're people whose job is to monitor and even try to control the discussions on all the internet forums, but it would be ridiculus to think a pay by post system would be used.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 17 Jul 2008 @ 12:57am

      Re: Author needs to research before writing stupid article

      So, are pro-China/anti-China trolls worse or better than pro-Apple/anti-Apple trolls?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        XS, 17 Jul 2008 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re: Author needs to research before writing stupid article

        Trolls are trolls are trolls. They are one and the same, no matter what they are trolling about. They all starts out saying my way is prettier/better than your way, and even tries to defend it with some half truth, but then it always degenerate into a shouting match of whose dick is longer.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    chris (profile), 16 Jul 2008 @ 8:45am

    lies are lies no matter who tells them...

    ... and no one cares.

    if a government pays to publish lies it's called propaganda.
    if a corporation pays to publish lies it's called advertising.

    so what? who cares? they know they lie. we know they lie. they know that we know they lie.

    there are shills in every popular forum on the internet. some are paid and some volunteer. some shills work for american corporations and some shills work for the american government. some of them work for foreign corporations or governments. shilling is just part of the marketing landscape, like tv commercials and appearing on a talkshow.

    the tactic that i'm waiting for is paying people to go to trendy bars and clubs to talk about your product, service, or political cause.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 16 Jul 2008 @ 9:42am

    Why assume that these are lies?

    From what I understand, the Chinese government would be happy to pay $0.50 for any positive comment, even if the person writing happened to believe it.

    Lots of people have strong nationalist feelings. I agree that there is some degree of skepticism invoked when I know that only positive comments get paid, but I don't really have a problem with that and I am willing to credit that some (maybe even most) of the positive comments come from positive-thinking sources.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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