The Chinese government reportedly has at its disposal a team of 300,000 Internet propagandists, whose sole mission is to promote the Chinese Communist Party line.
Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, has recently banned any mention of the phrase “50 Cents” from its website. It is believed that China’s “50 Cent Party” refers to the group of citizens who are hired to post comments which are favorable to the ruling regime, Business Insider reports. The Internet “trolls” are reportedly paid .5 yuan or 8 cents (US) per post.
A Harvard University study published in 2013 found that between 250,000 to 300,000 are members of the cyber 50 Cent Party. “The size and sophistication of the Chinese government’s program to selectively censor the expressed views of the Chinese people is unprecedented in recorded world history,” the authors of the study wrote in the American Political Science Review.
The New Statesman interviewed one of the cyber trolls in 2012, who told the British paper that he had “too many usernames” to keep track of and his job was “kind of psychological.”
“You can make a bad thing sound even worse, make an elaborate account, and make people think it’s nonsense when they see it,” he added.
In 2011, an internal memo was leaked that described the day-to-day operations of the 50 Cent Party, which included focusing on the United States as a “target of criticism” and using “the bloody and tear-stained history” of China to rally support behind the Communist Party, instead of showcasing Taiwan as an alternative means of governance.