A recent study led by Gary King, a political scientist at Harvard University, revealed that China’s government fabricates roughly 488 million social media comments a year in a massive effort to distract its citizens from bad news and sensitive political debates, i.e. the truth.
King led a group of three scholars who specialize in utilizing quantitative data to analyze public policy. They ran the first systematic study of a group known as the “Fifty Cent Party,” China’s online propaganda workers who are popularly believed to be paid 50 Chinese cents (8 cents American) by the government for every social media post. The researchers found that nearly all the posts were written not by ordinary citizens, but by workers at government agencies including courts and tax and human resource departments. The researchers found no evidence that people were paid for the posts, adding the work was probably part of the employees’ job responsibilities. These government employees work to distract public attention from hot topics by highlighting the positive, cheering the state, symbols of the regime and the Communist Party’s current “successes” and glorious 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,” King said via e-mail.
Experts in the United States are busy analyzing the data. One of them, on condition of anonymity, told me that he “was floored-just absolutely blown away- by the sheer number of false and fabricated posts that China blitzes their social media with every year.” Putting the staggering output into perspective, he exclaimed, “Dear Lord, that’s nearly half as many false statements as the Hillary Clinton campaign puts out there on a yearly basis. Extraordinary!”