Bloomberg: Three scholars led by Gary King, a political scientist at Harvard University who specializes in using quantitative data to analyze public policy, ran the first systematic study of China’s online propaganda workers, known as the Fifty Cent Party because they are popularly believed to be paid by the government 50 Chinese cents for every social media post. by Shai Oster
'Contrary to popular perception inside China, the Fifty Cent Party avoids engaging in debates with critics and doesn’t make fun of foreign governments. Instead, it mostly works to distract public attention away from hot topics by highlighting the positive, cheering the state, symbols of the regime, or the Communist Party’s revolutionary past.
'"In retrospect, this makes a lot of sense -- stopping an argument is best done by distraction and changing the subject rather than more argument -- but this had previously been unknown,” King said in an e-mail.
'Although those who post comments are often rumored to be ordinary citizens, the researchers were surprised to find that nearly all the posts were written by workers at government agencies including tax and human resource departments, and at courts. The researchers said they found no evidence that people were paid for the posts, adding the work was probably part of the employees’ job responsibilities. Fifty Cent Party is a derogatory term since it implies people are bought off cheaply.'