China, in an unusual forthright move, has revealed that they employ two million citizens to monitor the nation’s activity on the Internet.
The revelation came from Beijing News which dubbed the people working in this capacity as Internet opinion analyst.
China has been notorious for keeping a close eye on the internet activity of people inside its borders.
According to Beijing Daily, the monitors who are on state and commercial payrolls are not tasked to delete posts but are “strictly to gather and analyze public opinions on microblog sites and compile reports for decision-makers”.
Internet activity monitoring in China is particularly geared toward observing social media activity.
Apart from revealing how many people work as monitors in the country, the Beijing News report also identified some people who are in this line of work in the country.
It named a certain Tang Xiaotao as one of the nation’s Internet opinion analysts.
Without saying where he works, the report says: “strictly to gather and analyse public opinions on microblog sites and compile reports for decision-makers.”
“He then monitors negative opinions related to the clients, and gathers (them) and compile reports and send them to the clients,” the report added.
This is a rare occasion for China as the country rarely openly discusses how it monitors its Internet activity. However, the long-running belief in the industry is that the country has a massive workforce dedicated to policing its web activity.
According to reports, the two million Internet opinion analysts mentioned in the report are only one group that comprises the whole range of positions in China’s web monitoring work.
Meanwhile, the report notes that the Chinese government will be conducting classes for Internet opinion analysts for the first time from October 14 to 18. However, it is quite unclear whether these classes are for newly enlisted analysts or for existing analysts.
The report also revealed more details about the scheduled training. The training will consist of eight modules, it says. The ultimate goal is to train members to scrutinize and evaluate postings made by people on the web and how to act during a crisis situation.
China has a growing Internet user base.
As an example, Sina Weibo, the most popular Twitter-like service in China, was launched just three years ago but now already has 500 million registered users. These 500 million users, though obviously not all of them active, post a staggering 100 million messages every day.
China is particularly interested in postings that are politically sensitive with messages judged as incorrect being characteristically deleted most of the time.
Image from Philip Jägenstedt on Flickr (CC)