Report: China Has Two Million People Monitoring The Internet
Some two million "online public opinion monitors" in various government departments and companies are employed by Chinese authorities to monitor web activity on social media, the Beijing News reports.
The army of net nannies hails from the propaganda departments of the Communist Party, commercial institutions and other agencies, according to the paper.
China has more than 591 million Internet users and routinely censors the web by blocking access to sites with pornography, gambling and content critical of the Communist Party. Many search terms referring to the June 4th, 1989 crackdown, the Dalai Lama and other controversial issues are blocked.
Twitter and Facebook are banned, but Internet users flock to domestic social media, such as Sina Weibo, the most popular microblogging site, and often post comments critical of local government officials or which express anger over broader state policy.
Although it only launched in 2010, Sina Weibo now has more than 500 million registered users with 100 million messages posted every day.
The reports gives an unusually frank insight into how China censors the Internet, detailing how analysts are required to collect opinions and gather information on local issues and identify accusations of corruption, before reporting the information to government leaders.
The government plans on holding training classes for the monitors for the first time from Oct. 14 to 18, the paper reported.
China's Internet is one of the most heavily censored in the world. The Communist Party keeps a tight rein on traditional media such as TV, movies and newspapers, but finds it difficult to balance the need to control online content with the commercial opportunities offered by Internet freedom.
President Xi Jinping's newly installed government has been clamping down on dissent lately ahead of an important Communist Party plenum next month, and there have been many detentions in recent months for "rumor-mongering."
Internet users can now be charged with defamation if postings containing rumors are visited by 5,000 users or reposted more than 500 times, according to a judicial interpretation issued last month by China's top court and prosecutor.
An official from the State Internet Information Office said the current crackdown on online rumors actually helped, not hindered, free speech.