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China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:39 am UTC
by Nukewaste
A recent article by Mike Elgan of The Raw Feed and other techno sites claims that China is hiring internet users to go forth and spread good news of China on the internet. And also shout down bad news.

And the army has grown to an estimated 300 thousand members, who get paid 50 cents for each positive post they perpetrate on the populace. (Sorry, once you get started...)

And as 300,000 people is more than the entire population of some 47 countries, the article goes into several reasons why this can quickly become a bad thing.

http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/columns/article.php/3795091/How%20Chinas%2050%20Cent%20Army%20Could%20Wreck%20Web%202.0.htm

He doesn't mention the Great Firewall of China, and how these people will gain access to articles on subjects such as the Tiananmen demonstrations, so I assume they are either given a free pass, or doing it from locations outside of China.

One aspect I'm not clear on is what happens if these people start visiting websites, and start learning that "Hey, Tibet should be free..." and other such dangerous ideas (as far as China is concerned). Perhaps lose their passports, if abroad?

But, anyone have ideas or feelings? Is this a threat to Web 2.0, or will every person just start getting banned from sites for supporting China? Or will this ominously bring on a loss of anonymity on the internet?

Or, perhaps more importantly, anyone want to say it's not a big deal, China is awesome, and earn that 50 cents?

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:44 am UTC
by Mabus_Zero
Ooh..../b/ simply must hear of this...the lulz could be truly epic.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:53 am UTC
by Maurog
Wait, so you can be a troll and get paid for it? Where do I sign?

I fully believe in the ability of the internet to defend itself, even against an army of trolls. There will be some switching of gears and balancing of scales, and China will suddenly realize it's paying people for doing nothing except surf the web all day. I suspect a lot of anti-China sites will spring into existence whose only purpose is to bleed the China government for troll money and simultaneously get a lot of ad hits.

PS: China is awesome.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:55 am UTC
by Vertana
Their plan will fall through and turn out to be a waste of money (if, indeed it is true as I did not follow the link). The only sites they can get to would be the sites inside "The Great Firewall", therefore, it will have minimal impact on Chinese citizen's ideals. If they are allowed to go outside that firewall... why... who knows what dangerous ideas they could be exposed to!? Perhaps even... Americans!11!1! (I'm sorry I tried to take this seriously, and yet... I can't. The idea that someone can't read an article simply because it involves America in a positive light or China in a negative light is preposterous. Attempting to censor something like pornography or other "objectionable" content is at least understandable, but this... I'm just done with it already.)

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:57 am UTC
by Nukewaste
Maurog wrote:I suspect a lot of anti-China sites will spring into existence whose only purpose is to bleed the China government for troll money and simultaneously get a lot of ad hits.


That's a good move. They'll all make their own anti-China sites, and end up trolling each other. Like a mix of a hydra and an ouroboros, a many headed snake all eating their own tails, winding into a big strange snake thing.

China rocks!

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:00 am UTC
by JayDee
I can't say this really bothers me. Government spammers don't annoy me any more than corporate ones. I can't imagine patriotic trolls being any more or less annoying just because they are being paid.

The complaints linked from that blog amuse me. "China is so much better that us at this!" and the web 2.0 complaints (about digg or wikipedia or whatnot) seem to amount to "democracy on the internet is only a good thing when most people agree with me."

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:49 am UTC
by Iv
I was suspecting this for a few months already. On the biggest French newspaper's website, every article that criticizes China has at least 50% of pro-China commentaries. On this website, one can read comments freely but posting is for subscribers only, so these people could have some visibility.

However, I am confident in the power of truth and logic. I can only see it as a good thing if more Chinese can engage in Internet discussions, even as trolls.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 12:34 pm UTC
by The Reaper
Oh China, you're so silly awesome.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 1:56 pm UTC
by SlyReaper
A sign of China's growing prosperity, this is!

*yoinks 50 cents*

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:11 pm UTC
by Iv
Could hypocritical praises to China become the next micro-payment currency ? Surely what a great idea the Chinese government had ! *yoink* Does this also mean that for 50 cents I am allowed to criticize China on Internet ? *bloop* Hey, it works !

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:59 pm UTC
by Diadem
This is very strange. Yet not unexpected. All governments engage in disinformation, and non-democracies even more. This is just a logical extension of propaganda.

We all know the power of propaganda.
We all know the power of web 2.0

China is just adding 1 and 1 together.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:43 pm UTC
by Darkscull
Diadem wrote:China is just adding 1 and 1 together.


yes, but they do it so well, and without using fingers (unlike some governments).

I for one welcome our new cyber-chinese overlords.

*ka-ching*

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:45 pm UTC
by Indon
I must confess, at first I thought this thread was about rap.

Also, apparently they're only getting paid the equivalent of 7 US cents, so not so much cha-chinging.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:09 pm UTC
by Iv
Hmmm, I wonder if AdWords would work better than their current system ? (surely such a magnificent and intelligent country as China must have thought of that already *kachink*)

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:25 am UTC
by ++$_
Wikipedia should be okay. Once it's known that a large-scale attack on NPOV is underway, that attack has little chance to succeed, as everyone will be carefully watching.

However, I fear for any Web 2.0 site with a less dedicated and aggressive user base.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:32 am UTC
by roc314
I'm amused by the what other governments might do if this becomes some sort of internet race (ala the arms race or space race).

I'm also amused by how much the great and glorious China will crush those other nations should such a thing happen.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:10 am UTC
by legosaurus
Nukewaste wrote:He doesn't mention the Great Firewall of China, and how these people will gain access to articles on subjects such as the Tiananmen demonstrations, so I assume they are either given a free pass, or doing it from locations outside of China.

One aspect I'm not clear on is what happens if these people start visiting websites, and start learning that "Hey, Tibet should be free..." and other such dangerous ideas (as far as China is concerned). Perhaps lose their passports, if abroad?

These people are targeting domestic websites. Chinese who are educated enough to read foreign media likely already know about the problems with their government. Chinese wealthy enough to be able to access foreign media likely don't care about the problems with their government. People rah-rahing China on international news sites are likely overseas Chinese that aren't being paid for their efforts.

The point of this 'army' is to trample domestic dissent. Criticism of China coming from the outside actually is used as a tool by the government, showing that the west is still trying to 'humiliate' China, and that they need the continued strength of the communist government to maintain China's power.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:18 am UTC
by Dream
Do their state provided browsers make the Mario Bros. coin noise whenever they post? If not, they're getting screwed.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:56 am UTC
by LeopoldBloom
I'm surprised that china in its many fold magnificence, its gloriously grand and epic contemplations, isn't using scripts of some kind to achieve this. China is awesome.

PS. you should get paid by the adjective.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:15 am UTC
by Nemiro
Will this be extended to real life soon? I welcome the opportunity to spread the glory of China to all my peers. (cha-ching?)

Also, is a meme afoot? (A meme to rule all memes, which could only have been provided by China, greatest country of all?)*

*I need the money - folks are saying there's a recession on dammit.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:20 pm UTC
by SlyReaper
Can I get 50p every time I post something flattering about the UK? We've got... well, we've got Nectar points.

(+1 internet to anyone who knows the reference)

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:10 pm UTC
by pruwyben
The "Why This Isn't Astroturfing" arguments are exremely flimsy. Three is bs, and the rest are a matter of scale, not category. Propaganda is propaganda.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 7:49 pm UTC
by Awia
SlyReaper wrote:Can I get 50p every time I post something flattering about the UK? We've got... well, we've got Nectar points.

(+1 internet to anyone who knows the reference)
Bill Bailey!

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:24 pm UTC
by Indon
pruwyben wrote:The "Why This Isn't Astroturfing" arguments are exremely flimsy. Three is bs, and the rest are a matter of scale, not category. Propaganda is propaganda.


Really, it boils down to, "This isn't Astroturfing because it's militarized astroturfing," which is an important point to make. This isn't just Sony making some favorable blog - this is a military campaign.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:34 pm UTC
by Jahoclave
So the real question, how much can America get taken off it's debt if we say nice things about China at a U.N. meeting?

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:03 pm UTC
by headprogrammingczar
Over nine thousand (Yen). A pitance for great and glorious China (Ka-Ching).

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:35 pm UTC
by phlip
pruwyben wrote:The "Why This Isn't Astroturfing" arguments are exremely flimsy. Three is bs, and the rest are a matter of scale, not category. Propaganda is propaganda.

Try reading it again as "Why This Isn't Merely Astroturfing" and see if it makes more sense.

That is, the intent of the sentance (as I read it) isn't "Astroturfing is such an ugly word... this isn't anything like that", but rather "Astroturfing is too mild a term... this is even worse."

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:58 am UTC
by Marbas
Anybody else get the feeling that China came straight out of some cheesy dystopian fiction?

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:09 am UTC
by LeopoldBloom
50c seems a lot to me, I could quite easily make one positive post a minute. Thats $30 an hour, which, considering the average chinese unskilled wage is absolutely tiny. . .

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:17 am UTC
by Marbas
LeopoldBloom wrote:50c seems a lot to me, I could quite easily make one positive post a minute. Thats $30 an hour, which, considering the average chinese unskilled wage is absolutely tiny. . .


7 cents USA...so more like 4 dollars an hour.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:28 am UTC
by mazzilliu
I look forward to making many positive china forum posts with a subtle layer of sarcasm and satire that may not be readily apparent to someone with English as a second language. Afterall, it's what you can expect from a great country such as China. When can I start receiving the money?

edit: also, calling it now there will be an automated China praising machine written and published on the internet sometime soon.

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:34 am UTC
by BobMacDhonnchaidh
Anon vs The Nation of China

Image

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:26 pm UTC
by Iv
Jahoclave wrote:So the real question, how much can America get taken off it's debt if we say nice things about China at a U.N. meeting?

This is actually a strangely accurate description of the US-China relationship

Re: China's '50 Cent Army' invades the internet

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:36 pm UTC
by the_bandersnatch
Based on the thread title, I thought this was going to be about a huge Chinese fan club for 50 Cent.



I'm not sure which is worse.

I <3 China; China China...Yay, China!

Posted: Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:40 pm UTC
by cerbie
I trust in the users of the internet. For this situation, I'd even trust 4chan folks.

I think it will be fun and interesting, because China appears to be a dystopia straight from a scifi novel. This trick is not like the Spanish Inquisition (in that everybody expects it, since, of course, somebody won't know that).

The trouble is that "Web 2.0" (which isn't, but that's for other threads) has been made useful and become controlled by people that are interested in something, with control over visibility being based on exercising that interest. If you start seeing pro-China Digg entries, with sparse facts and plenty of fanboy/trolling activity, you're going to start passing them over, or maybe finding their IPs and/or other web identities. Rinse and repeat for other such sites, wikis, forums, blog networks, and so on. IMO, there either won't be a significant effect, or it will become obvious enough (and people will become paranoid enough) to avoid/ban/etc.. Adding misinformation may work for short periods of time, but I don't think it will get out of hand.

With 300,000 people, you can see how the CCP could easily determine what makes it onto the front page of Digg, and what gets shouted down. They could use Wikipedia, YouTube and Slashdot as their most powerful tools of global propaganda. It would be trivial for China to determine Yahoo's "Most Popular" news items ("Most E-Mailed," "Most Viewed" and "Most Recommended").
Of course, the likes of Google (and others, but Google is the big papa), who's income is largely dependent on dependent on finding trends in web behavior, are not going to notice anything? People going to such sites won't notice pro-china articles and videos being modded up? I have some faith the gods and peasants of the web, here. Maybe it won't get stopped, but people will be tipped off to it, and respond. Breaking the trust in others that we rely on will not be without consequences, but I don't think the sky will fall (you are trusting that someone has a genuine interest, and is willing to invest a positive vote, a link from their site/feed, mod points, etc. due to their own personal desires, not because they are getting paid to do it).

I do not trust the Chinese government (OK, fine, I don't trust any government, but...).

I'm sure they will use their media and their Great (Fire)wall to make sure everything is twisted to their desires. Most Chinese on the 'net, who either travel or have left, and the few I've talked to in person (2 restaurateurs, so not big sample :)), get that their government is sort of crazy and oppressive, and we get that most of the Chinese people are not. But most of the Chinese people can't go out and look for alternate opinions very well. So, even assuming you are Chinese, and have been raised to distrust authority (or at least your government), you will still be affected propaganda that the government uses. You might not completely fall for it, but you will certainly have been impressed (as in to have pressed into you) with some of it.

So, if China has plans to use this as a way of making their own propaganda, or tying their own in with what the people are allowed to see, "on their own," well, that just doesn't seem good to me. If it works, it's bad. If it 'fails', it's still bad, because the people will have only China (gov) sanctioned information to sift through, even if they can tell most of it isn't the truth--is any of it, and how can they decide? Making it more difficult for inquisitive minds to tell fact from random opinion from propaganda is the main danger I can see. It can confuse those with inquisitive minds, and sway those without.