Oiwan Lam: China's 50-cent Twitter Censors

The Chinese government hires a small army of freelance censors to manipulate opinion in chatrooms, blogs and now even Twitter, Oiwan Lam, a prominent Chinese-language blogger currently writing for Global Voices and Inmediahk, says in this video.

Some of Oiwan’s friends have done stints as online censors, getting paid 50 cents per comment, to earn up to several hundred RMB per month (US$30 or so).

Many of these censors, who are know as 50-cent-ers, have been recruited from China’s top universities and some government agencies. (One recent recruitment campaign looked for male party members willing to do a job that involved surfing the Internet for p0rngrphie. Imagine they found more than a few young male applicants willing to surf for that. A female friend of Oiwan’s tried to apply for the job, but was rejected because she is a woman.)

Although not entirely new, the phenomenon has recently started including people working to shape opinion on Twitter and similar new channels towards stances more favorable to the government.

Turns out the Chinese government has heard of Web 2.0.

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  1. Pingback: La Chine emplois des (jeunes) censeurs Web 2.0 (Blog & Twitter) | Kamesenin.net

  2. Nitpick: I wouldn’t call them censors, since they have no ability to delete or edit published material. A spin or noise machine, but not censors.

  3. @davesgonechina

    Yes, you are absolutely right.

    My headline when posting this in French was “Comment la Chine Manipule Twitter” or “How China manipulates Twitter”. That is more accurate.

  4. est

    OK, the whole interview is full of lies and bullshit

    FIrst this women knew nothing about 50-cents. They do NOT pay you 50 cent per post. In fact, 50-cents was a dated saying from KMT government. So the woman totally do not know what she is saying.

    OK, the government IS censoring information, but not as far as twitter. They just GFW everything they are unhappy about. It’s kind of ostrich policy.

    And it’s not officer, but official. In campus they DO monitor all students speech & mind(I myself have been ‘invited to have tea’ with them about twice.), but they understand little English. They will make more effort monitor Chinese posts rather than English contents

    The man doing interview is very good at eliciting points. He is kinda of PRO. What if he is doing this on purpose? I mean, DO WE REALLY HAVE TO HATE OUR GOVERNMENT AND TREAT CCP AS ENEMY? WHAT BENEFIT CAN YOU GET WHEN CCP FAILS? CCP is bad but more & more bastards are joining CCP each year, this is the most terrible part.

    I DO believe CCP is moving forward to cencorship 2.0 but NOT like what the woman said. They may pay Cisco to upgrade GFW to support complex protocol analyzes.(Thank you Cisco!)

    Twitter is ad-hoc messaging service, decentralized, it’s hard to track the source, and it’s not even effective to hire someone to spread prapagonda. Cauze no one will follow a twitterer full of bullshit.

  5. est

    > but was rejected because she is a woman

    This is the most crappy part of the article. I knew quite few classmates acting as teachers’s ‘underground eye source’ to monitor actions afterclass in junior/high school. They are girls

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  7. Pffefer


    Who is this Oiwan Lam? Where did you find her? How credible is she? I find her story hard to believe.

  8. www

    Even if the story is true, I believe it’s Falungong that pioneered the practice, and they have been doing this for years, but somehow the blogsphere largely ignored the phenomenon. I guess it’s only natural that the communist party finally learned something from Falungong. Don’t be suprised if on the same blog you’ll find Falungong censors and CCP censors.

  9. est

    OK, it’s not even from KMT government. It’s from WWI. My mistake.

  10. Pingback: More on China’s Army of 50-cent Censors - Thomas Crampton

  11. bob

    This is an incredibly stupid accusation. She doesn’t know the mechanics of how these people’s work are tracked and paid in accordance? I work in the computer software industry, and I can tell you it’s IMPOSSIBLE to do with without people cheating. I think what she says is total bullshit, and I don’t think she even believes in it herself. Why would the CCP even waste time and money on this unreliable scheme when there are tons of willing people like me doing this for free, and reliably on a daily basis?!

  12. oiwan

    some clarifications, should have done this earlier…

    there are several kinds of people responsible for monitoring the internet. 50 cents is only one type. in the interview, i said i knew a friend who worked for traditional media used to be a 50 cents but i don’t know how exactly he was recruited.

    the second type are more official, and i used the term information officer, who are formally employed by the government to monitor the internet, including pornography, that’s why they are looking for party male. these people are not 50 cents.

    as for twitter, it is more difficult to monitor as people know each other. however, there are friends complaining that they are followed by strangers and change into private mode. it is unclear who do the twitter monitor.

  13. China should stop messing with their people … it’s that simple. This is 2008 not 1808 .. forcing the people will only end in civil war or even end up larger.

    Be smart China …. back the hell off while you are still ahead.

  14. Pingback: John Gordon’s English Weblog » Blog Archive » 50-cent Propagandists?

  15. Interesting story. How do you get all those underground news from China?

  16. Interesting story. How do you get all those underground news from China?

  17. Interesting story. How do you get all those underground news from China?

  18. Interesting story. How do you get all those underground news from China?

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  22. McCarthyism at it's worst. Shame on you… BTW nobody pays me, if you have evidence against me let's see it – show me the list in your pocket, or is it a piece of blank papaer?

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