A series of internal documents from China’s censorship authorities has revealed how internet trolls are deployed during times of bad publicity to manipulate public opinion in favor of the Chinese regime.
(Article by Nicole Hao republished from TheEpochTimes.com)
Records from the Luoyang city division of the Cyberspace Administration—China’s chief internet censorship agency—show that authorities hired online trolls to write social media posts praising the authorities. The documents were leaked to The Epoch Times by a trusted source.
These trolls were paid 11 yuan (about $1.62) for each post they made.
Altering Public Opinion
Luoyang is a city located in central China’s Henan Province.
In mid-February 2019, a food safety scandal erupted surrounding the Henan-based company, Sanquan Food. The brand’s dumplings were found to contain traces of the virus that causes African swine fever (ASF).
ASF first broke out among China’s hog population in August 2018, and quickly spread across the country. ASF is deadly to pigs and hogs, but is not known to affect humans. The livestock are usually culled in order to prevent the disease’s spread.
Many Chinese farmers use human stool as land fertilizer. If it contains active ASF viruses, it can pollute water sources and potentially spread the disease to more pigs.
Information about the contaminated dumplings quickly spread on Chinese social media platforms, forcing authorities to publicly admit the incident.
On Feb. 16, 2019, all online and physical grocery stores in the country took Sanquan dumplings off their shelves.
The Luoyang Cyberspace Administration reported to the city government how hired online trolls tried to manipulate public opinion following the Sanquan food scandal.
One troll with the online moniker “Qingqi Suoyou” posted: “Since the [world’s] first ASF outbreak about one hundred years ago, no human being was infected by the ASF virus. So, the ASF virus won’t affect pork products. You can eat the meat and related products.”
Another hired troll named “Ruguo” posted: “The ASF virus will be killed at high temperatures. You can eat [the dumplings] by cooking it completely.”
Others tried to downplay the news as rumors. A hired troll with the online name “Qinghe” posted: “Don’t believe in the rumors and don’t spread the rumors. All large enterprises can trace the source of the raw materials that they used.”
Some tried to use the opportunity to praise authorities.
The troll “Kantaiyang” posted: “Our country always treats food safety as something very important. I believe the government will give our people an answer [about the virus’ source].”
“Hai’ai” posted: “We cannot doubt that China’s State Food and Drug Administration and Sanquan Food are proactive when facing the issue. The most important thing is solving the problem. We shouldn’t question things and should wait quietly.”