Hacked Emails Reveal China’s Elaborate and Absurd Internet Propaganda Machine - Quartz
Note: Caonima = grass mud horse/F your motherChina’s netizens are well aware that the government pays commenters to make favorable remarks on Internet forums about the Party and its leaders. Allegedly, the propagandists are paid half a yuan (5 mao or 50 cents, in American terms) per comment, so collectively they are known as the “50-Centy Party”, or as wumao.
A Chinese blogger managed to hack into the email system of a local propaganda bureau, and published the email directives to the local wumao on his blog. (It’s in Chinese.)
Among the hacked documents are instructions to paid commenters, their posting quotas, and summaries of their activity. The emails reveal hundreds of thousands of messages sent to Chinese microblogging and social media services like Sina Weibo, Tencent, and various internet forums, including working links to the actual posts. All told, they demonstrate the Chinese state’s wide reach on the internet, even at the lowest levels of government.
Zhanggong’s propaganda department comes across as surprisingly large, yet comically unsophisticated. To get a sense of its inner workings, Quartz examined emails related to a single event: an online Q&A with the local Communist Party secretary earlier this year. What we found was a Potemkin online village of adoring citizens posting favorable messages and easy questions—all manufactured by the propaganda department.
Most of the 300 wumao or wangpingyuan (Internet commentators) on this city’s payroll just copy and paste the suggested emailed comments to meet their daily quota, and receive their payments. Others get a little more creative, while still maintaining the unquestioning, loyal, even fawning tone of the pro-government remarks.
Here’s an example from the Quartz article, referring to the local party secretary:
2. (Link to forum) I really admire Party Secretary Shi, what a capable and effective Party Secretary! I hope he can be the father of Ganzhou for years to come.
It’s quite likely China employs English-speaking wumao to troll English websites and Twitter. So, the next time you see an over-the-top patriotic remark about China, it may have come from a paid agent of the Chinese government.