China's astroturf army

Discuss

132 Responses to “China's astroturf army”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s amazing how cheaply they’re doing it. That’s moderately skillful work, writing comments that actually change peoples’ minds. There’s a reason that people still watch the Nazi propoganda movies with slight awe at the effectiveness they had – it’s a hard job.

    I think if it happens over here they’d be called “advertising executives” and be paid tens of thousands of pounds for each “campaign”

  2. BJB says:

    correction: that should say “uninvestigated claims”

  3. Antinous / Moderator says:

    No nation on this planet spends more money, time, and is more efficient at manipulating their citizens as the United States.

    Um…North Korea? Bush has a 20% approval rating. Kim Jong-Il is called Dear Leader.

    Um…China? Citizens en masse believe that the government is saving them from The Bad Things, which are so bad that it would be dangerous for them even to hear about them.

  4. ab5tract says:

    Is it legal to attach physical harm clauses to EULAs?

    I’d like to set up a site where this sort of thing is punished by being force fed one’s own gametes.

  5. Kieran O'Neill says:

    Shaddack #38: Or put it up for deletion … ? ;)

    OK, rather than that (since this at least looks like it deserves an article), I have tagged it for cleanup. You may want to read up on the verifiability guidelines, as well as learn how to cite sources. (I know you’ve done this to some extent, but you really should use the built-in system for citations, and ensure that every contentious claim in the article (and there are many) is backed up.)

  6. Fred Rated says:

    >> s why hsn’t Chn dptd th mrcn mdl?

    Thy hv.

  7. Fred Rated says:

    >> m…Nrth Kr? m…Chn?

    Hv y bn t ths cntrs?

  8. jjasper says:

    Because investigative independent journalism in China is so easy to come by.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I spent my youth practicing sports on astro turf, but didn’t think that eventually I’d personally be astro turfing my small garden for requirements besides soccer.
    Fake grass is the hottest and best craze sweeping the globe. So you can forget mowing the grass.

    Diana :D

  10. lmanpig says:

    Let me tell you this, any post disliked by the communist party will be deleted,or in most cases, the Great Firewall won’t even let you post it.

  11. Ugly Canuck says:

    Who cares what non-violent make-work program China adopts? At least they are not invading other countries, and destroying their infrastructure and societies on the far side of the planet, to both keep their armed forces ‘employed’ and for other purely domestic and inward-looking political reasons. Unlike other countries we shall not mention here.
    PS I guess unemployment would really be bad, if some govs did not directly and indirectly employ so very many via publicly funded military expenditures. Too bad that the primary function of the military is to dominate others by killing and destroying…or threatening to do so.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      At least they are not invading other countries

      With enough astroturfers, China could bomb Saskatchewan and nobody would protest. Of course, that might be true without the astroturfers as well.

  12. Gilgongo says:

    Of course, this doesn’t prove the army’s existence, but Mike Elgan’s “Raw Feed” blog sometimes has rather anti-China posts on it (particularly in the run-up to the Olympics last year). On at least one occasion he got into a comments flame war with somebody who was obviously if not a paid astroturfer, a pretty unsubtle apologist. It was actually rather spooky as I recall.

  13. marssheep says:

    The American Communist Party has reportedly raised a “50-Cent Army” of astroturfers who are paid US dollar 0.50 for each patriotic, pro-American comment they post on blogs and social media sites. Some estimates have the size of the army at 300,000 people.

    Comments, rumours and opinions can be quickly spread between internet groups in a way that makes it hard for the government to censor.

    So instead of just trying to prevent people from having their say, the government is also attempting to change they way they think.

    To do this, they use specially trained – and ideologically sound – internet commentators.

    They have been dubbed the “50-cent party” because of how much they are reputed to be paid for each positive posting

  14. Digital Artz says:

    We should do the same thing especially
    as to how much our sad bad departing President
    did not like foreigners much,most Texans don’t.
    In any event todays The Daily telegraph from the
    UK predicts the dollar is going to be dumped in
    3-5 years ,now that’s something to talk about to
    China & Europe.

  15. Lauren O says:

    You guys, I am really disappointed that I just read through this entire thread and there wasn’t a single Fiddy joke. We need to step up our game.

  16. Jason Rizos says:

    Considering some of the things I read on messageboards during the Bush Administration’s reign, I’m quite confident this goes on here as well. Just with full-time, paid pro-GOP trollers.

  17. BJB says:

    Encounters with Chinese patriotism, oops, I mean blind nationalism, might seem pretty spooky. How could someone so oppressed by their government actually express love for their country without some coercive force or monetary recompense?

    The fact is that there are millions of Chinese people out there who, regardless of their personal views toward the government, are ready to defend the name of their country. It’s sort of like whether or not you always get along with your family members, if someone threatens one of them, you’re going to defend them.
    So, I sincerely doubt we could chalk posing on the blog in question up to “paid astroturfing.” It’s most likely just a Chinese person feeling the need to respond to what he sees as his nation’s often unfair treatment in the international arena.

    Likewise, this cannot currently stand as a valid argument to prove the invalidity of information or commentary coming from Chinese sources. Even if this army exists, there is practically no chance that they would even think to have a presence on non-Chinese blogs and website.

  18. Digital Artz says:

    China is the most smart and wonderful country
    in the whole wide world.(Forget the enforced baby
    abortions and political executions) now Where’s my 50 cents?

  19. ab5tract says:

    @63

    Um…China? Citizens en masse believe that the government is saving them from The Bad Things, which are so bad that it would be dangerous for them even to hear about them.

    Actually, it is very hard to know what the “citizens en masse” believe in China, as they have been very carefully socialized to never express an opinion that questions the Party Line, no matter how badly that Party Line contradicts itself over time.

    I don’t find it hard to believe that many Chinese people have their own opinions about many things, you will just never hear what they are because Fear of Reprisal is so clear, present, and effective.

    Also “Citizens en masse believe that the government is saving them from The Bad Things, which are so bad that it would be dangerous for them even to hear about them” as a statement could easily refer to American citizens. Has the government ever advertised a thwarted terrorist act? Yet how many people gladly justify warrantless wiretapping with ‘but they’ve been SO successful at keeping us safe for 7 years.’

    I am not an apologist for China. I hate authoritarianism wherever it is. My point is that the citizenry in China “have” to profess belief in government positions or face internment/reeducation/execution. In America the citizenry only has to profess belief in government positions if they do not wish to be looked down upon, labeled a radical, have all their opinions and arguments dismissed out of hand, and/or potentially lose current or future jobs for deviating too far from ‘normality’.

    Different carrot, different stick, same shit.

  20. peanut says:

    The Chinese government pay for hackers to break into the U.S. government science and military computer systems. It is obvious the Chinese government would pay people to spread disinformation. China wants to be the best – either by lying or cheating their way to the top. Look at the melamine issue. Quality control needs to make sure that milk products have a certain level of protein. In order to make a bigger profit they put melamine in the milk powder to fool the protein tests into thinking that there is more protein in the milk powder. Hundreds of thousands of people have gotten sick, some babies have died. Do you know what China says? It’s not melamine. It is some other reason. Do you know who is spreading this lie? Those paid computer users.

  21. silvermink says:

    Wait, wait, wait. So I make some anti-Chinese-government troll posts, these guys respond, and I suck .50 a comment out of the pockets of the Chinese government and put it into the pockets of the Chinese people?

    See you guys later – I’m off to create some wealth.

  22. Fred Rated says:

    >> Y’r gng t hv t prvd mr sbstnc tht tht.

    Ths wr chp.

    N prfnty, nflmmtry rhtrc, r trllng. Jst lgtmt pnns y fnd nsffcnt fr rsns nspcfd.

    Th lxry f bng “mdrtr.”

    Cnsrshp scks.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I invite anyone to come up with a reputable news source citing any mass internal opposition to the PRC. Even an opinion poll. Is there a single item since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that can compare with the daily bombardment by US media that criticizing the US government?

  23. Ugly Canuck says:

    It is also possible that such people are volunteers, or get free net access, in exchange for some of this posting activity.
    China is hardly the only great nation which has vocal adherents, willing to go to bat for their Nation, regardless of the flavor of the government of the day.
    It ought also be remembered that the US and China now form (economically) an inter-dependent ‘entity’ or system.
    It would be best IMHO if they worked together, to strengthen their mutual economic interests. Indeed IMHO it is in each of their Nation’s individual self-interest that they continue to closely co-operate in economic matters.
    The US needs China’s savings, China needs the US market. They are natural allies.

  24. noen says:

    All of this predates even the internet. Governments have long subverted and diffused political organizations, planted false information in the media and secretly funded counter culture organizations in order to discredit them. That’s what agent provocateurs are. You infiltrate and then have your people push the organization into extreme action and then discredit them in the media. That’s what happen here in Minnpls during the RNC convention.

  25. Takuan says:

    no Fred, you are not being censored. You are being beaten with the lazy-stick. Back up your comments so they can be engaged. Bald, unsupported averral turns into “you’re stupid”, “no, you’re stupid”, “shut up” “you shut up”, “no you shut up”, you’re stupid” – which is boring.

  26. Takuan says:

    what do you want a silly hat for?

  27. ab5tract says:

    Antinous

    Are you saying the lack of such a poll suggests the opposite? You are asking for an objective, journalistic count of dissidents in a country where there is no such thing as objective journalism? Who would collect that poll? Who would publish it? How would they make the people taking the survey feel safe enough that they express an opinion they could very well get disappeared for?

    If political disappearances becomes more visible/regular in the US, do you really think the polls would not skew to show support for government policies?

    People who go around publicly badmouthing the PRC, well, they don’t go around so much afterwards.

  28. Antinous / Moderator says:

    This portion of the thread arose in response to Fred Rated’s assertion that:

    No nation on this planet spends more money, time, and is more efficient at manipulating their citizens as the United States.

  29. ab5tract says:

    Is there a single item since the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that can compare with the daily bombardment by US media that criticizing the US government?

    Um, sorry, whatever critique our media puts forth has little to do with the opinions of the people and everything to do with their parent company’s revenue stream. That we see any disagreement with the government at all just shows how profitable dissenting is these days. And while profitability does correlate with popularity to an extent, equating the two is simply irresponsible.

    Just one example is when the people of this country SUCCESSFULLY LOBBIED our representatives to shoot down that PoS “bailout” the response of the media was to claim a ‘failure of leadership in Washington.’

    Watching the daily news does not even begin to show the level of discontent among the populace in this country, let alone even pretend to give lipservice to the arguments of said dissenters. Expecting China’s media to do so in a country that doesn’t even pretend to have free speech, well, just sounds insane.

  30. minTphresh says:

    lauren o, didn’t you see my spot at #38? prolly rolled rite thru it…

  31. minTphresh says:

    anti, i b’lieves that fred’s head has been permanently affixed to a “no solar activity” zone.

  32. Shanghai Slim says:

    Does the “50 Cent Army” exist?

    Here’s a link to a 2006 New York Times interview with a student who does this exact job, as a volunteer, on her college campus forum in Shanghai.

    “As Students Go Online, Little Sister is Watching”

    http://tinyurl.com/a98llb

    Are there national programs similar to this? As a longtime (American) resident of China, I would be very surprised if there weren’t, given the multitude of other ways, overt and otherwise, that the gov’t uses to exercise control and influence opinion over the internet and other media, (TV, the press, text messaging, etc).

  33. MB says:

    @71. There was, but it got shot 9 times, yo. What do you expect?

  34. Thorzdad says:

    I give them 5 years. By then, pretty much every China-based IP super-range will have been blocked by spam filters worldwide, anyway.

  35. GuidoDavid says:

    This nothing new except in scale. The URSS and the USA were doing propaganda in mass media for years, and Venezuela does now, paying lots of money to journalists and letting them be their mouthpieces. China is doing the same and gave one step more, doing the same in the Internet, and given the distributed nature of the medium, needs a different approach.

  36. ab5tract says:

    @83

    Well, as far as his claims to the efficiency of US manipulation of citizen opinions, I’d have to say any system that doesn’t require gulags and re-education camps and yet manages to convince enough people that trickle down economics works despite every instance pointing otherwise is pretty damn efficient.

    Without the semblance of free speech, however, this method becomes inefficient, as only violent suppression of dissidents is likely to work.

  37. ab5tract says:

    @88

    What part of admitting that you, nor anyone else, can possibly know to what degree the Chinese people are discontent with the PRC are you finding difficult?

    That is, why would you respond to my lengthy posts with such a dismissive question?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      That is, why would you respond to my lengthy posts with such a dismissive question?

      Because you keep trying to argue with me when I’m not disagreeing with you.

  38. MrJM says:

    The Chinese Communist Party is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful collection of human beings I’ve ever known in my life.

  39. Ugly Canuck says:

    Yes guido Colby used to boast in the 70s about how many newspaper op-ed commentators the CIA had on its payroll. Just because they could not spy on Americans, did not mean they could not try to influence them…

  40. Takuan says:

    you do understand that “50 cents” is figurative? It’s really only 7 cents.

  41. ill lich says:

    This could devalue pro-Chinese opinions on blogs, like Italy printing more Lira. Let’s say I am reading a piece on Tibet, and see the comments are flooded with pro-Chinese/anti-Tibet cut-and-paste diatribes, and I see this whenever a similar piece appears on any blog: I will ultimately ignore the vast majority of them as propaganda. I have friends who already completely ignore any comments left on a blog (including boingboing) simply because reading them is the ultimate time-waster of the internet; if you reply to a comment you disagree with it leads to pointless arguments and endless foot-in-mouth moments. I too have been getting angry at myself for spending too much time commenting whenever I read a blog that I think I have 2-cents worth of opinion to add. . .

    Damn it! I did it AGAIN!

  42. eustace says:

    (waking up) Hmmm? Wha? 50 Cent is posting pro-Chinese opinions on the innertubes?
    Hardly surprising, considering the nuanced foreign policy views he elucidates in solid jams like Hustler’s Ambition to Free the Proletariat and I Get Money for the Masses.
    Still, these postings may be more dated than people realize. He recently laid down a phat I’ll Still Kill if you Diss the Dalai Lama. Sign that his allegiance is changing, perhaps?
    Read teh article? Why?

  43. Takuan says:

    so, whaddya think BJB and marssheep will do with their two bucks?

  44. BJB says:

    Thanks for posting the link to the NY Times article, Shanghai Slim. It’s definitely relevant to a part of the discussion.

    The article shows clearly that there are people doing this kind of astroturfing. However, it only shows that they are doing it on a relatively small scale at select institutions already known for heavily controlling internet access and content. Maybe it was a secret in 2006, but I don’t think it’s much of a secret now that universities in China are taking a very active approach to monitoring and moderating the content of their internal BBS systems. It’s a responsibility something akin to keeping pornographic material out of the library.

    What the NY Times article still doesn’t address, if you take a look at my previously mentioned concerns regarding the claims of the originally posted material, are the following questions:

    On what scale is such activity occurring, that is, are there numerous small and disconnected groups all applying similar tactics, or is there an overall governing body for such activity?

    Is there any monetary recompense being given for such activity, or is it all volunteer activity?

    We still have no answers to these questions, so at this point, I think it would be unfair to assume the existence of widespread astroturfing, especially on the English-language internet.

  45. Ugly Canuck says:

    Spend it at MacDonald’s?

  46. Takuan says:

    I never listen to Politburo Rap

  47. Cupcake Faerie says:

    I hear there’s great money to be made in the alpaca farm business….

  48. ab5tract says:

    Antinous

    I invite anyone to come up with a reputable news source citing any mass internal opposition to the PRC. Even an opinion poll.

    That sounded like a rebuttal to me. I guess you meant that the PRC is better/more efficient at thought control because such a thing cannot be provided?

    I obviously didn’t take your statement that way when I first read it.

    Because you keep trying to argue with me when I’m not disagreeing with you.

    Hard to tell that when you never responded to anything I said, such as the many questions I asked you. I understand dismissiveness is snarkiliciously edgy, but maybe next time you could actually respond to the content of my posts. Or am I doing something wrong by posting thoughtfully instead of trying to get out the next joke?

    That said, we are obviously in complete agreement with the effectiveness of Chinese style opinion control. My point was simply that you sounded like you were hand waving. “There is no evidence that the Chinese people are upset with the PRC, so they obviously love the PRC!” This is faulty logic, and thus invalid, not to mention impossible to verify for the very reasons I laid out in my initial post and reinforced by the news we are discussing right now.

  49. BJB says:

    Hey all, the weather in Baltimore is just great! I’ve got the letters BJ right there in my username. No need to guess about my location.

    It’s funny my comments and questions are being taken as “pro-government” or “pro-Chinese”, when all I’m saying is that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the scale and organization of such operations, and that we can’t assume that they’re going to affect the English-language internet any time soon.

  50. Takuan says:

    I guess dissent equals porn – to a Party member anyway.
    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/090107/technology/china_internet_censorship

  51. Anonymous says:

    I’m fairly certain Israel has a very similar program. Every single thread I see on Israel, Gaza, Judaism, Islam, etc. has a dedicated core of posters who appear and start the same talking points.

  52. ridl says:

    Anyone else hear that all of the major Chinese-language papers in the US are actually owned by the Chinese government? I heard that. Scary.

    Also: regarding distortions in US mainstream being profit driven or propaganda.

  53. eustace says:

    I’m afraid it works the other way ’round, as well. I wrote something snarky about China on Slashdot and found my bank account debited by 50 cents… cheap at twice the price…

  54. minTphresh says:

    sorry, i thought that BJ stood for……uh, something else. but, i hope u enjoyed your fiddy cents.

  55. DaedalusAloft says:

    So do the Chinese have a nice flowchart like the USAF?

  56. resista says:

    I don’t know if this story is true but for people to doubt it out of hand is pretty well ignoring the tendencies of the Chinese government and their interest in Cyber warfare which is no made up thing. I work at an ad agency and we are using social networks now to get our message across so if the Chinese Military/Political/Intelligence apparatus isn’t doing the same thing then they are laying down on the job. If you think that then you don’t understand Chinese society at all.

    On a slightly different note I started getting propaganda emails about a year ago from someone in China. At first they were about the evil and violent Free Tibet movement and the wise and restrained Government of the People’s republic. They have gone on to other messages since then about the economy and other international topics. They come about once a month I don’t make spam rule for them and I don’t delete them because I find it fascinating. They are normally several pages long. If anyone thinks they come from the CIA then I welcome them to contact me so I can forward them to you and then you will know that not only is this story real but they are doing a lot more overt things than this. Use the contact form @neworleansreggae.com and I will forward them to you for your to figure it out for your self. Some of you are too smart by 1/2. It is counter-indicative but somehow this is keeping clues from coming in to your brain.

  57. Jonathan says:

    Similar allegations against the Russian government: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_brigades

    Anyone have more on that?

  58. randwolf says:

    As Boing Boing’s excellent moderator is fond of quoting, “Deceiving us has become an industrial process”.

    “But the demons pierced it through with evil…”

  59. Noelegy says:

    Digital Artz, how many Texans do you know? I mean, actually KNOW? Just curious.

  60. Avram / Moderator says:

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to disemvowel hanzi?

  61. FoetusNail says:

    Thanks for posting these, I’ve had little time for reading, no time for searching.

  62. Takuan says:

    dis-em-every-second-stroke?

  63. minTphresh says:

    jtegnell , and BJB, here you go! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbM9EP2G0LM

  64. Shaddack says:

    Just wrote a wikipedia article for it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party
    Please feel free to review and edit.

  65. Cupcake Faerie says:

    I’m stanky rich!

  66. Jonathan says:

    Thanks Resista, just took you up on your offer. Nice work, Shaddack.

    IMO, we should be careful in assuming that Chinese government-sponsored astroturfers will be easy to detect because they’ll be the ones blatantly defending China on pro-Tibet blogs.

    With that many paid turfers, they can lay down turf for China without ever mentioning China, by meta-turfing — extrapolating or abstracting the core philosophies behind China’s social/political/economic agendas, and pushing those instead.

    For example, they might find geopolitical situations that are similar to those that China faces, and push the side that’s analogous to China’s. Or, they can abstract China’s economic stance, and push it on economics blogs. Etc.

  67. Takuan says:

    “the core philosophies behind China’s social/political/economic agendas,”

    can’t push what isn’t there. All China’s present government is about is fear, power and greed.

  68. thehamsterman says:

    Step One: Pay people to post patriotic posts.
    Step Two: …
    Step Three: Profit!

  69. pyota says:

    fortunately we live in the united states, where our culture is free of jingoism and thought manipulation. as noam chomsky says, one of the hardest things to do is look in the mirror.

  70. Jonathan says:

    Thanks Takuan; “philosophies” might be poor word choice. Maybe “motivations”?

  71. Takuan says:

    how much would they have had to pay per post to make it work in the USA?

  72. Takuan says:

    I could live with “agenda”.

  73. Jonathan says:

    I could live with “agenda”

    Me too. I already used agenda in that sentence though, so I’ll need to adjust the second “agenda” if I don’t want it to clunk. I toyed with “metagenda”, but I think that’s meta-overdone. I’ll hit the thesaurus.

  74. Takuan says:

    how about “evil schemes”? “wicked plots”?, “monstrous conspiracies”? help me out here folks,I’m trying to be fair and balanced.

  75. jtegnell says:

    I’m so glad my country isn’t like that! I’m working with China right now, and became a huge fan of the Party (china.com/party). I especially like the full touch screen display and html web browser. It’s awesome!

  76. Fred Rated says:

    BTW, how touchingly naive to imagine that China is unique in manipulating their public in this and other ways.

    No nation on this planet spends more money, time, and is more efficient at manipulating their citizens as the United States.

    That’s not hyperbole, that’s gospel.

  77. GuidoDavid says:

    If you can stomach this, take a look:

    http://www.periodismonecesario.com/

    (In Spanish). A website with antisemitic and pro Chavez articles by a group of “concerned journalists” fighting the evil lies.

    Funny that their bullshit does not stand even a very superficial analysis, as they claim for instance that Human Rights Watch criticizes Venezuela but says nothing about Guantanamo or Afghanistan.

    It is really sad that the oil income is spent in this kind of crap and in indoctrinating people instead of getting real education. At least China is taking people out of poverty.

  78. Fred Rated says:

    Censorship takes many forms.

    Why deny your people access to controversial information when you can just condition them to despise it from birth? Americans are built from the cradle to shun reason and embrace escapism and propaganda.

    In a way, it’s a credit to the Chinese people over the Americans in that there are still people in China who strive for the truth, even at great peril. Americans just don’t give a shit because they were made that way.

    Apathetic and shallow.

  79. blackanvil says:

    To a certain extent, the Chinese gov’t may be thinking it’s playing catch-up. I’ve encountered a belief from some Chinese, as well as from other non-Americans and some Americans as well, that some or all of our media, particularly FOX news, MSNBC, and CNN, are nothing more than US propaganda machine puppets, the reporters little more than paid government spies, agitators, and propagandists.

    Having worked in publishing, I believe that’s mostly bullsh*t, as the reporters I’ve known have on average less patriotism than the average citizen. That said,if there’s a perception on the part of China’s government that the US has this vast army of reporters promulgating American memes, they might believe they must have their own as well.

  80. Takuan says:

    so why hasn’t China adopted the American model?

  81. Jonathan says:

    how about “evil schemes”? “wicked plots”?, “monstrous conspiracies”? help me out here folks,I’m trying to be fair and balanced.

    How about “villainousness” in place of the second use of “agenda”? If that’s too heavily suffixed, there’s always “villainy”. If we stick with your first suggestion of “agenda”, we can prepend “subterranean”, adjust “behind” to “beneath” to fit the “sub” theme, and use “villainy” to follow “social/political/economic”. So, the definition of meta-turfing in this instance could look something like this:

    Extrapolating or abstracting the subterranean agenda beneath China’s social/political/economic villainy, and pushing that instead.

  82. Inkstain says:

    “Americans are built from the cradle to shun reason and embrace escapism and propaganda.”

    I’m afraid people come that way long before the American government has a chance to influence them. We’re just born that way.

  83. Takuan says:

    now yer talkin!

  84. Takuan says:

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1855400,00.html

    I foresee a radical decision by Beijing coming. Leaving China is going to become very easy. Almost encouraged. Worked for Castro. Get ready for it.
    How do you say “Scarface” in Mandarin?

  85. Takuan says:

    it seems to me that any “non-patriotic” posting would warrant a paid reply. Which would mean the more “non-patriotic” postings needing their 50 cent rebuttal, the richer the turfer becomes. Considering the utterly dull and formulaic content of both kinds of posts, a simple post-generator bot turned loose on the web in China would be a good way to earn. I wonder how many are already up?

  86. Russell says:

    This is such a nonsense scare created by the British media. Here’s my take on it: -the 1st Folk Devil 2.0…

  87. Jonathan says:

    Thanks. Also,”pushing” can be replaced by “planting” or “cultivating”, which aligns nicely with the grassroots-astroturf theme. I’m thinking that “extrapolating” is borderline extraneous, and can safely be dropped. I’m tempted to use “unearthing” in place of “abstracting” because it fits the theme so nicely, but “abstracting” seems more proper to me. So, now I’m working with this:

    Abstracting the subterranean agenda beneath China’s social/political/economic villainy, and cultivating that instead.

  88. Takuan says:

    appears to be many other non-British media mentions;
    eg: http://www.danwei.org/propaganda/more_on_the_50_cent_army.php

  89. urshrew says:

    Dear BoingBoing,

    Today I am very sad. My government has been overthrown by The Glorius General Karathmar! All hail the Glorious Reign of Karathamar, Year 0!

    Signed,

    Little Girl

  90. minTphresh says:

    eustace, i think i went to art school with her sister!

  91. Russell says:

    Takuan, it was 1st started by the Guardian newspaper back in September…see my blog link above for details

  92. unklstuart says:

    I would like to see a post from someone who actually collected for a bog entry. I picture huge offices filled with typists getting paid piece work.

  93. Takuan says:

    hmmm, after reading the Datamation item I feel you might be being a little too sanguine about this.

  94. Takuan says:

    the foregoing is the other side of astroturfing: rigid control of dissent. The Chinese government actually would prefer hordes of internet addicted, it would keep them busy instead of protesting in the streets. The point of using real names in on line gaming is to head off any possibility of game avatars being used for clandestine communication.

  95. Fred Rated says:

    @jtegnell

    That is the funniest, goddamn comment I have read in months and I shit you not. I almost LOL-ed coffee on my keyboard.

  96. Marcel says:

    I, for one, welcome our 50ct per blogpost paying overlords.

  97. Mindpowered says:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7819355.stm

    How dare such traitors and capitalist running dog lackeys impune the righteousness of our harmonious society!

    Seriously though, I’ve run into these bloggers (they inhabit places like economist.com) and they will literally take every statement, no matter how oblique, or unrelated, as a direct attack on the sanctity of the Chinese state.

    I never understood how they could rationalize telling the rest of us how the Chinese were uniquely spared the need for representation and transparency, but knowing that they get paid to spout, it makes much more sense. I was hustling on the streets of Xian, i’d jump at any opportunity no matter how inane to make a bit of cash.

  98. Teapunk says:

    So, is this more lucrative than gold farming or could you do both on a part time basis?

  99. spocko says:

    I agree with Fred Rated, jtegnell, Not THAT is funny. A month old call back that is on topic! 3 layers of brilliance!

    Corporations do this, political parties do this, groups and causes do this. I remember when I went to a meeting about 5 years ago when people in corporations were talking about how they could “use the blogs” to sell stuff and a grizzled communications vet asked, “What is going to stop some company from just paying a bunch of people to go around and say nice things about them or create a bunch of blogs that say nice things?”

    People will do a lot of things for money, some more unsavory than others.

  100. Oskar says:

    I think this is a brilliant policy! China does everything so right! There’s so many haters out there that don’t know what they’re talking about, and this seems like a very sensible way to get the real story out there! You know, the truth, as spoken by the everlasting Communist Party and the Glorious Leader! Little red books for everyone!

    (KA-CHING!)

  101. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Okay, folks. We have a bigger problem than astroturf. I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you which commenters are posting from Beijing. The more interesting question is which one posted multiple times from Beijing and then posted from Baltimore a mere three hours later. China has invented the transporter!

  102. BJB says:

    I recently saw media commentator Kaiser Kuo speak. When he was asked a question regarding the rumored “50-cent army, he responded that the only known sources of information on its existence, size, or operations were investigated claims in the Chinese blogosphere.

    I’m not suggesting that there hasn’t been any new information that’s come to light. I’m also not suggesting that there is no meddling on BBS systems by people supported by the government. However, it does seem that the facts of this report coming from Guangxi are being convoluted with preexisting rumors.

    So my questions are:

    Does the report itself or any accessible documents actually state the scale or number of people involved in these operations?

    Do these documents state how much individuals involved are paid and by whom they’re organized?

    It’s very easy to let reports like this play into western fantasies of a big brother state in China. Let’s separate fact from fiction before we assume the existence of a widespread conspiracy.

  103. WildWildEast says:

    If my government paid me, I might say nice things about them!

Leave a Reply