China Uses Paid Internet Commentators To Control Public Opinion

Dennis Faas's picture

China is reportedly using an increasing number of paid "Internet commentators" to scour the Internet for bad news so they can try to negate it in an attempt to control public opinion. 

Chinese leaders are aware that the Internet is a place where views can be freely expressed so they pay close attention. They use these "Internet commentators" to spread their propaganda by posting comments on websites and forums, trying to spin bad news into good news in attempts to shape public opinion.

China's Communist Party leaders have tried to control this for years via the media. Since extending that policy to the Internet, many websites have been blocked by a system that has been dubbed "the great firewall of China." (Source:

Cyberspace is not as easy to control as traditional news outlets because comments, rumors and anonymous opinions quickly spread between Internet groups in a way that makes it hard for the government to censor.

In addition to trying to stop people from having their say, the Chinese government is attempting to change the way people think. They use specially-trained Internet commentators -- dubbed the "50-cent party" -- who are paid 50 Chinese cents for each "positive" posting.

The Public Security Bureau in the city of Jiaozuo in Henan Province boasted about this approach in a recently released document that tells the story of one disgruntled citizen who posted an unfavorable comment about the police. One of the Internet commentators reported this posting to the authorities within 10 minutes, whereupon the bureau used more than 120 people to spin the story around and change public opinion.

Chinese Internet commentators obviously need to show loyalty and support to the authorities. A document from the hygiene department in the city of Nanning in Guzngxi province reveals a few other things they need: "they need to possess relatively good political and professional qualities, have a pioneering and enterprising spirit, and they need to be able to react quickly."

Hiring Internet commentators began a couple of years ago by local governments who found it hard to control public opinion. They came up with their own solution because Beijing couldn't monitor and block every single piece of news. Some experts claim that there are tens of thousands of these Internet commentators and there are reports that special centers have been set up to train them. They have a lot of work ahead of them; politically, the Internet is more important in China than in other societies because it's the only public space where people can express themselves.

This concept is nothing new. Some critics allege that the United States has been using propaganda to sway public opinion while controlling the media for years. Information on identifying propaganda can be found from George Mason University. (Source:

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