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?