The “Fifty Cent Party,” (“五毛党”) professional Internet commentators hired by provincial and local authorities, have become one mechanism to eliminate the online opinions that are critical of the government. Here is one example from Jiaozuo Daily in Henan province, posted by blogger Wang Xiaoshan, translated by CDT:
In recent years, negative news reporting about police often appears on the Internet. This not only reduces public trust in the police, but also creates a serious image crisis for the public security organs. In order to effectively avoid exposure of negative reports while the police are on duty, Jiaozuo City Public Security Bureau established an emergency mechanism to analyze “public opinion.” This is an effective solution for the “bottleneck” in public security work.
On the morning of August 10, 2007, because of a traffic dispute, one Internet user in Jiaozuo posted malicious slander about the police in an online forum, and many Netizens forwarded comments without knowing the truth. This had a direct impact on the image and reputation of the police. Ten minutes after the message was released, the internet commentator (Fifty Cent Party) invited by Jiaozuo City Public Security Bureau, discovered and promptly reported it to the public relations department, which immediately organized its network of more than 120 staff to post in the forum calling for the truth and setting the record straight.
Twenty minutes later, the voices supporting the police became mainstream, and many netizens started to “denounce” the person who posted the original comment. The network is a success story of how the Jiaozuo police deal with online incidents involving their department.
In June 2007, the Jiaozuo City Public Security Bureau recruited 35 Internet commentators from enterprises, institutions and organizations relating to the media, the families of police and supporters of public security work. The bureau also selected more than 120 police who have excellent writing skills and express themselves strongly to compose the Jiaozuo City Public Security Bureau Internet commentator team dealing with the timely detection, screening and reporting of negative information about the police. The team will immediately brief the public relations department, and issue a positive and timely message guiding public opinion. In addition, Jiaozuo City Public Security Bureau has also established mechanisms for issuing press releases and public security notifications about public opinion for the media’s internal use, to avoid negative reporting and a negative impact on the police.
Blogger Beijing Wensan digs out the establishment of Wu Mao Party:
“Fifty cents” (“五毛“） was first seen on some official documents. At the beginning of 2006 the Propaganda Department of Anhui Province revealed in their report: “Inspection of Propaganda and Cultural Work in Nanchang, Changsha, Zhengzhou” that “since October 2004, the Changsha Municipal CCP Committee Foreign Propaganda Office submitted to the principal leaders the publication “Changsha Public Opinion Express.” To serve their purpose, the Municipal Party Committee General Office, the Municipal Party Committee Party School, the City Committee Political Research Department, and other units have hired a number of Internet commentators and set up a commentator team, and promoted a network review inspection, assessment, and recognition system. Internet commentators earned a monthly salary of RMB 600. Their main duty is to closely monitor public opinion appearing on the internet, provide information and carry out targeted publicity network planning and Internet opinion guidance. Every week the commentators will have one focus, and make posts on China Web of the Spiritual Civilization, the People’s Web, Xinhua Net and 20 other popular domestic sites. Also they’ll blog text and pictures of Changsha City’s Three Civilizations Construction, and its related new approach, new achievements and new experiences. Besides the basic monthly wage, the commentators will receive extra payment from each post, which is counted at RMB 50 cents. That’s where “Fifty Cents” comes from.
Hunan Province has been the pioneer in organizing the “Fifty Cent Party” and publicized the fruits of their labor to other provinces. They have submitted 800 messages per month to the provincial leaders. In addition to hiring full-time commentators, in 2006 the Propaganda Department of Hunan Province also advocated to the staff on the front lines of propaganda work that “everyone can make 50 cents.” This greatly increased the staff for Hunan’s “Fifty Cent” team, which is an invisible network in the world and forms a unique landscape.