In a rather interesting revelation, a study has shown that China uses a staggering 488 million fake profiles on internet to divert some real discussions from going deeper into the layers of issues. Three scholars, led by Gary King, a political scientist from Harvard University ran a systematic study of Fifty Cent Party, in other words, China’s online propagandist group. And the name ’50 cent group’ is self descriptive since the group is believed to have been paid 50 cents for every online comment posted, in order to digress the anti-government discussion, or add a special focus to the discussion, mostly a positive link or news, that would have the same effect on the discussion anyway.
A popular belief in China about the Fifty Cent Party is that it would post comments that would usually ridicule or say derogatory things about foreign governments. But that is not to be. The group, which has only government employees from chosen offices such as human resource, revenue or income tax departments, will post mostly highly positive news from the government. The news would invariably celebrate the state’s achievements of hold up celebratory news in a positive manner. The messages, in a nutshell, will celebrate the state symbols, the regime, and the revolutionary past of the most celebrated communist party that currently holds the reins in China.
Those who post comments were till now, assumed to be ordinary citizens, who were volunteering into this activity. However, the study has revealed this number is almost closing in on 500 mn. Right now a rough estimate puts these numbers at 488 mn which is most certainly dynamic.
How does this work? A good part of these messages make way into government websites, while the rest are consistently posted into 80 billion social media posts from the Chinese internet. Some of the sites affected by this phenomenon are Baidu Inc, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Sina Corp etc. The team studied leaked archives of 2013, and 2014 from Internet Propaganda office of Zhanggong. The archives included a good mix of multiple e-mail formats, programs and attachments that were required for the study. A good 2341 mails with more than half by the Fifty Cent Post, and 43,797 posts met the prerequisites of a benchmark for being propaganda posts.
The posts were all about timing, and coordination. Praising state, the revolutions that shaped China and the lopsided view that west has about the country are sure to be addressed positively through these posts. What the Chinese perhaps fear, does not come from outside; but the uprising of their own people. Internet is really the way things are shaping up now.