Copy this bookmark:



bookmark detail

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument
"The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opin- ions of ordinary people. Almost all scholars, activists, journalists, and participants in social media claim these so-called “Fifty Cent Party” posts argue vociferously for the government’s side in political and policy debates. Yet, almost no systematic em- pirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime’s strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analy- sis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabri- cates and posts about 488 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to regularly distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime. We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical under- standing of “common knowledge” and information control in authoritarian regimes."
in_NB  to_read  social_media  networked_life  social_life_of_the_mind  changing_the_subject  re:democratic_cognition  via:henry_farrell  king.gary  china:prc  censorship 
may 2016 by cshalizi
view in context