It’s no secret, nor a surprise, that China is unprecedented when it comes to censorship policies. However, what does come as a surprise is the army of Internet trolls mobilized to instigate propaganda on a national level.
The "50 Cents Party" is a group of ordinary citizens who have been hired to write about or post comments of a particular nature on specific news items. Their name defines their wages as they earn 50 Chinese cents per post.
For the most part, this group consists of youth who are just looking to make some extra cash anonymously. Very recently, the term "50 cents" has been banned on the Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo.
In 2013, it was estimated that up to 300,000 people belong to the party of what can only be described as propaganda aids. They do not get to decide what they write or post about, as they are given these tasks from their unknown superiors via email.
Apart from steering conversations that are pro-China, they are also at times instructed to veer negative sentiments regarding concepts that threaten or clash with Chinese communist ideals. Essentially their job description entails influencing the average Internet user’s opinion, regarding China itself or issues that are related to the country, be it Taiwan or capitalism.
In a land where information is already limited due to a variety of websites blocked, from social media to news websites, it becomes even harder to swallow that the little news allowed to float around is also controlled information.
While it’s been reported that such censorship mechanisms have been functioning during the recent Hong Kong protests, perhaps if the Chinese government needs to rally in this much effort, they ought to be worried about their public’s opinion.