Efforts by local and central authorities to control information and shape public opinion on the Internet are evolving. Three cases illustrating new tactics are below. The first is an example of a preemptive strike taken by local police in Guangxi who responded to netizens’ concerns over a traffic accident almost before they were posted. The second two translations demonstrate the new confidence authorities have in utilizing a team of “Internet commentators,” or so-called Fifty Cent Party, to sway public opinion online, much like viral marketing works in the private sector around the world:
Last Monday, police in Wuzhou, Guangxi reacted to a netizen posting photos of an accident involving a police car by preemptively posting an assurance on the same BBS that the police were investigating the matter thoroughly.
The following is a translation of the cyber police note above, which was posted less than two minutes after the photos went online, translated by CDT:
The police car was confirmed to be involved in the accident. The municipal government and police department have directed the Police Inspectors’ Branch to investigate the accident on sight, ensuring that the accident will be handled fairly.
At this time, the injured person has been sent to the local Red Cross hospital for emergency care by the police; the Traffic Collision Unit of the police department will investigate the case according to legislation. Please do not speculate before the investigation has been completed.
The highest levels of the police department have declared their commitment to resolving
this issue fairly.
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In the meantime, two more pieces of evidence have emerged about different government agencies hiring “Internet commentators” (or “Fifty Cents Party”) last year, translated by CDT:
A notice regarding the formation of a team of Internet commentators in the Health Care System:
Source: Shenzhen Municipal Department of Health
Shen-Wei-Fa (2007): No. 67
A Notice of Organizing an Internet Commentator Team in the Health Care System
To: All district health bureaus, all the departments and offices in each health bureau, the Municipal People’s Hospital, the Municipal Second People’s Hospital, Beijing University Shenzhen Hospital, Municipal Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, Municipal Health Inspection, Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Women and Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital:
According to the requirements specified in the notices from the Municipal Internet Management Office, in order to strengthen management of network media, to set up a proper guidance directing public opinions, and to create a healthy social environment with harmonious relationships between doctors and patients, and among doctors, it is now decided that a team of Internet commentators will be organized in the health care system. The related matters are as follows:
1. Each unit mentioned above must recommend one person who possesses high political awareness, thinks actively, and is familiar with network application, to take up this part-time position as an Internet commentator.
2. The Internet commentators must frequently browse the forums of domestic mainstream websites and pay attention to the trends of public opinion on the network, actively post or follow-up on posts, and conscientiously comply with the relevant laws and legislation, participate in related discussions about medical treatments, health care service, and protect the image of the health care industry.
The work unit of the Internet commentator must provide full support in working conditions for the work of Internet commentators.
Each unit must correctly complete Shenzhen Internet Part-Time Internet Commentator Recommendation Form, (download the attachments), stamp with the unit’s official seal, and fax it before May 14th to 25600980 or deliver it to the Shenzhen Municipal Department of Health, Room 212.
Attachment: Shenzhen Internet Part-Time Internet Commentator Recommendation Form
May 11, 2007
(Contact person and telephone number: ZHANG, Muxiu at 25533022)
And this one is from Nanning city, Guangxi province:
Nan-Wei-Ban (2007) No. 35: Notice on the Organization of an Internet Commentator Team in the Health Care System, 04/09/2007
To: All the units in each bureau
According to the requirements specified in the notice of organizing a team of Internet commentators from the Municipal Department of Publicity, it is decided, after careful consideration, that an Internet commentator team in the health care system in Nanning will be organized in order to strengthen the work of guiding Internet public opinion and expand the influence of such guidance on public opinion. The related matters are presented below:
Candidates for Internet commentators should possess a high degree of political and professional quality, an innovative and progressive spirit and quick response ability, a proficiency in theoretical analysis and writing, an enthusiasm in protecting the favorable image of Nanning, and a familiarity with Internet operations. The candidate selected by each unit must be able to deliver messages to the public through the Internet on behalf of his/her own unit.
To frequently log in to “Nanning Internet Commentator Platform.” The Internet commentator must regularly log in to “Nanning Internet Commentator Platform,” to keep him- or herself up to date with the newest instructions from higher authorities, the latest job assignments or job requirements from the Municipal Department of Publicity, and the latest guidance for the proper direction of Internet public opinion.
To browse the Internet for opinions and information. The Internet commentator must frequently gather the opinions and information concerning his/her own unit from websites. The Internet commentator ought to take the initiative to provide proper guidance if there is any negative publicity on the Internet related to his/her unit, and should promptly report any serious situation to the Municipal Department of Publicity and Municipal Department of Health.
To actively participate in online theme discussion. In accordance with the job requirements made by the Municipal Department of Publicity, the Internet Commentator must gather pertinent information, complete the proper corresponding preparatory work, and actively participate in the theme discussions sponsored by the Municipal Department of Publicity on important website forums, to facilitate a warm Internet discussion environment.
To actively participate in news posts follow-up commentary and online discussion forums. Every Internet commentator must frequently log in to the well known domestic and foreign websites, such as People’s Daily, the Xinhua news network, the Tianya community, the Kaidi community, Maopu Community, the 21st Century network station, the United Morning Paper website, the Sina (Xinlang) website, the Sohu website, TOM, the Guangxi News Agency, and Nanning Time-and-Space forums, and register as a member of the above mentioned websites and actively participate in news posts follow-up comments and discussion forums. The Internet Commentator must also actively publish positive posts with depth about Nanning in relevant website forums, actively guide Internet public opinion, and counter the negative Internet posts with follow-up posts to clarify the facts on the Internet, dispel doubts, and eliminate any negative influences.
To promptly gather positive public opinion and background information on his/her unit. According to the principle of who is responsible when who is in charge, when any negative opinions about the work of his/her unit is expressed on the Internet, the commentators of this unit must promptly supply background information for positive guidance and report to the Executive Office of the Party and the Administration of the Municipal Department of Health, which will in turn summarily report to the Municipal Department of Publicity.
Each unit is asked to recommend one Internet commentator on the basis of the candidate qualifications, complete the “Nanning Municipal Internet Commentator Registration Form,” and submit the form to the Executive Office of the Party and the Administration of the Municipal Department of Health before April 10th, so that all the candidates recommended can be reported to the Municipal Department of Publicity on time. Contact phone number: 2622242.
Attachment: “Nanning Municipal Internet Commentator Registration Form”
April 4, 2007
Key phrases: Health publicity, Network commentary, notice
Nanning Municipal Department of Health, Executive Office of the Party and the Administration, published on April 4, 2007. (Total 20 copies)
Copyright 2002, Guangxi Nanning Municipal Department of Health has all copyrights
Manufacturing and Design:
Nanning Municipal Health Statistics and Information Center
Guangxi Wei Hong Medicine and E-Commerce Company Limited
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