China's 50-cent-a-piece propagandists

A search for "Tiananmen Square massacre" brings up no results on a Chinese search engine.

For the Chinese authorities, anything goes when it comes to controlling Web 2.0 - and that includes bribing the public into posting propaganda for 50 cents, says Hong Kong blogger Oiwan Lam.

Oiwan Lam is known for stirring up trouble with the super strict Hong Kong internet regulators. She became renowned on the blogosphere after facing charges for linking one of her posts to a nude Renaissance painting last year. In this amateur video, she talks to journalist and blogger Thomas Crampton about the Chinese government's latest scheme to control "alternative content" on the net. She says that writing a pro-government comment on an online debate will get you a reward of 50 cents (5 euro cents), which, if you have enough time on your hands, could amount to a second income.

"It’s more about manipulation than censorship"

Thomas Crampton is a journalist in China. He is currently based in Hong Kong. He writes the blog "Thomas Crampton - China, internet and new media seen from Asia".

These suspicious blog messages were first noticed around the time when the Olympic torch arrived in China. Very nationalist and pro-government comments starting appearing in numerous online debates that were critical in some way.

It's well known that university students in China, who are paid very little in their first few years, work as "50-cent-ers". They're a bit like our version of interns!

That said, you have to draw a line between them and the professionals. The scheme is more about manipulation than censorship. The "Fifty Cent Party" is manipulating public opinion through undercover intervention. The real censors, working for the government, are strictly controlling information. They are the ones who track down dissident sites and alert authorities to the use of "subversive" terms like Falun Gong (a spritual movement banned by the Chinese government)."

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A Week in Asia features the interview

France 24's "A Week in Asia" programme also took Thomas's video. They forgot to mention the copyright when airing the show so a big thanks to Thomas for the video on the Observers site and an apology for this mistake on the behalf of the programme.

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