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China Censorship 2.0 extends to twitters

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on July 17, 2008

The long arm of China’s censorship, it seems, now even extends even to Twitters. According to a video interview with prominent blogger Oiwan Lam, China’s thought police have monitored twitter postings of some of her friends, forcing them to limit access to their twitterings, thereby limiting their impact.

She points out, however that the government’s 50 Cent Party, estimated by David Bandurski in Far Eastern Economic Review to be 280,000 strong, has not been able to infiltrate twitters with the same success that it’s had with blogs, forums and chat rooms.

By the way, the 50 Cent brigade has nothing to do with the rapper by the same name, rather it applies to a group of individuals, ranging from party cadres to journalists to individual bloggers for hire, who are paid 50 fen, or half a yuan [ about 7 U.S. cents]for every posting they put on the internet. Here’s what Bandurski says about the 50 Cent Party:

“They have been called the “Fifty Cent Party,” the “red vests” and the “red vanguard.” But China’s growing armies of Web commentators—instigated, trained and financed by party organizations—have just one mission: to safeguard the interests of the Communist Party by infiltrating and policing a rapidly growing Chinese Internet. They set out to neutralize undesirable public opinion by pushing pro-Party views through chat rooms and Web forums, reporting dangerous content to authorities.

By some estimates, these commentary teams now comprise as many as 280,000 members nationwide, and they show just how serious China’s leaders are about the political challenges posed by the Web. More importantly, they offer tangible clues about China’s next generation of information controls—what President Hu Jintao last month called “a new pattern of public-opinion guidance.”

It was around 2005 that party leaders started getting more creative about how to influence public opinion on the Internet…

As my Beijing colleague Dexter Roberts has pointed out in a BusinessWeek article, corporations including Pepsi, Nike and McDonalds have used blogging [words “paid bloggers” removed in response to comment from CIC]to help them win the hearts and minds of consumers.

A hat tip here to blogger and twitterer Thomas Crampton , {he posted the Oiwan Lam Video) for twigging me to the term “astroturfing” which according to wikipedia is “a neologism for formal public relations campaigns in politics and advertising which seek to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass AstroTurf.”

Reader Comments

Sam Flemming

July 17, 2008 6:56 AM

Please note that Pepsi and Nike are CIC clients and CIC does NOT pay bloggers or engage any social media participants in any way for these or any of our clients.

Our clients will listen to what is being said online around their brands to better understand consumers for improved overall marketing communication strategies.

For more thoughts on this topic, please see my response to the Dexter Roberts article here:


July 17, 2008 5:15 PM

When I was in China, I feel there had been less censorship than in the United States.

The "censorship" that the columnist refers to, is the just usually web control for child-pornograph and online crimine, just like what was implemented in the USA, and the columnist is making a big fuss calling it "censorship".

You know nothing

July 18, 2008 4:04 PM

I dont care about pepsi, nike. You can spin it however you want, people have their own opinion.

Arthur, you full of it. When you were in China you didn't live there. You were there for a trip, how do you judge what is censorship or not by being there for a short period of time?



July 20, 2008 3:25 PM

I'm Chinese and I am living China now.
The beginning of this article said "The long arm of China’s censorship, it seems, now even extends even to Twitters. "
I'd like to say,that's right.
The government now has many staffs to do this.

Not only but everywhere.


July 20, 2008 3:37 PM


Are you part of the 50 Cent Party?


July 22, 2008 11:13 AM


I think he may be...

peter herford

July 23, 2008 12:25 PM

The sourcing of this story seems slim. One video interview, not done by the author, seems to be the authority for this story. The Chinese government is generally loath to provide information related to its monitoring activities, but did Business Week even try? Daily biefings by every Ministry in China provide a forum for questions - even though answers are not often enlightening. This story may have a great deal of potential if it were fleshed out with better reporting.

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