Wumao: China’s army of ­internet commentators who sing the government’s praises and attack its critics

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Collins

wumao

New Word Suggestion A suspected online paid operative of the Chinese Communist Party said to be paid 50 cents per post promoting or defending the party in chat rooms and fora and posting positive comments about China generally.Mandarin for 50 cent pl (s)

Submitted By: sesquipidalian – 09/04/2021

Approval Status: Pending Investigation

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/23495/wumao

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Excerpts from Wikipedia

50 Cent Party

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

50 Cent Party, 50 Cent Army and wumao (/ˈwuːmaʊ/) are terms for Internet commentators who are hired by the authorities of the People’s Republic of China to manipulate public opinion and disseminate disinformation to the benefit of the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP).[1][2][3][4][5] It was created during the early phases of the Internet’s rollout to the wider public in China.

The name is derived from the allegation that commentators are paid ¥0.50 for every post.[6][7][8] They create favourable comments or articles on popular Chinese social media networks that are intended to derail discussions that are unhelpful to the Communist Party, they promote narratives that serve the government’s interests, and they write disparaging comments and misinformation about political opponents and critics of the Chinese government, both domestic and abroad.[9][10][11]

Authors of a paper published in 2017 in the American Political Science Review estimate that the Chinese government fabricates 488 million social media posts per year. In contrast to common assumptions, the 50 Cent Army consists mostly of paid bureaucrats who respond to government directives and rarely defend their government from criticism or engage in direct arguments because “… the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject.”[12] Around 80% of the analysed posts involve pro-China cheerleading with inspirational slogans, and 13% involve general praise and suggestions on governmental policies.[13] Despite the common allegation of the commentators getting paid for their posts, the paper suggested there was “no evidence” that they are paid anything for their posts, instead being required to do so as a part of their official party duties.[14]

Research indicated a “massive secretive operation” to fill China’s Internet with propaganda, and has resulted in some 488 million posts written by fake social media accounts, representing about 0.6% of the 80 billion posts generated on Chinese social media. To maximize their influence, such pro-government comments are made largely during times of intense online debate, and when online protests have a possibility of transforming into real life actions.[13] The colloquial term wumao has also been used by some English speakers outside of China as an insult against people with perceived pro-CCP bias.[15][16]

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According to an article published by Xiao Qiang on his website China Digital Times, a leaked propaganda directive, sent to 50 Cent Party Internet commentators, stated their objective was the following:[38][39]

In order to circumscribe the influence of Taiwanese democracy, in order to progress further in the work of guiding public opinion, and in accordance with the requirements established by higher authorities to “be strategic, be skilled,” we hope that internet commentators conscientiously study the mindset of netizens, grasp international developments, and better perform the work of being an internet commentator. For this purpose, this notice is promulgated as set forth below: (1) To the extent possible make America the target of criticism. Play down the existence of Taiwan. (2) Do not directly confront [the idea of] democracy; rather, frame the argument in terms of “what kind of system can truly implement democracy.” (3) To the extent possible, choose various examples in Western countries of violence and unreasonable circumstances to explain how democracy is not well-suited to capitalism. (4) Use America’s and other countries’ interference in international affairs to explain how Western democracy is actually an invasion of other countries and [how the West] is forcibly pushing [on other countries] Western values. (5) Use the bloody and tear-stained history of a [once] weak people [i.e., China] to stir up pro-Party and patriotic emotions. (6) Increase the exposure that positive developments inside China receive; further accommodate the work of maintaining [social] stability.[38][39]

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Effects and opinions

The Internet commentator/50 Cent Party’s activities were described by CCP general secretary, Chinese President Hu Jintao, as “a new pattern of public-opinion guidance”;[46][47] they represent a shift from simply erasing dissenting opinions to guiding dialogue. In 2010, a contributor to The Huffington Post stated that some comments she received on one of her posts were from the 50 Cent Party;[48] she also stated that the 50 Cent Party monitors popular US websites, news sites and blogs and posts comments that advance Chinese governmental interests.[48]

David Wertime of Foreign Policy argued that the narrative where a large army of paid Internet commentators are behind China’s poor public dialogue with its critics is “Orwellian, yet strangely comforting”. Rather, many of the Chinese netizens spreading nationalist sentiment online are not paid, but often mean what they say.[13]

The colloquial term wumao, from the Chinese pronunciation of the term, has been used as an insult by some English speakers against people with perceived pro-CCP or pro-Chinese views,[15] and has been cited in discussions of Sinophobia.[16] An analyst at the Wilson Center has noted that ethnic Chinese are more likely to be called wumao than other groups of people in the English-speaking world; she attributed some of this to racism.[49] In Australia, the term has been used as an insult in the rise of anti-Asian/Chinese sentiments and ongoing debate over increasing “Chinese influence” in the country.[50]

Counter measures

Facebook and Twitter have been removing accounts and pages that are of “coordinated state-backed operation”.[51] In June 2020, Twitter has removed 170,000 accounts which targeted 2019–20 Hong Kong protests.[52]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party

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SCMP

Revealed: the digital army making hundreds of millions of social media posts singing praises of the Communist Party

US researchers carry out first deep analysis of China’s government-backed internet warriors known as the ‘50-cent gang’

Li Jing

Li Jing + FOLLOW

Published: 5:15pm, 19 May, 2016

It’s an open secret that China ­employs a veritable army of ­internet commentators to sing the government’s praises and attack its critics, but researchers at Harvard University in the United States say they not only have ­evidence this is the case, but also what Beijing’s motive is.

The team headed by Dr Gary King, one of America’s most ­distinguished political scientists, carried out what they describe as “the first large-scale empirical analysis” of online comments by the notorious “50-cent gang” (wu­mao dang) – so called in the popular but mistaken belief that this is the amount they are paid for each online post made in defence of the ­government.

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1947376/revealed-digital-army-making-hundreds-millions-social

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Foreign Policy

How to Spot a State-Funded Chinese Internet Troll

Personal attacks, appeals to communal loyalty, and pleas for patience are some telltale signs.

By Anonymous, translated by David Wertime

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