The Xinhua News reported yesterday (Feb 23) that a conference had been held last weekend on Feb 16 by the Office of Nationwide anti-Smut campaign (全国整治互联网低俗之风专项行动办公室) and the Beijing Association of Online Media (北京网络媒体协会), in which representatives of netizen gave suggestion on cleaning up the internet.
Rebecca MacKinnon gave some background about the meeting in her recent blog post. This group of pro-government web commentators, who are either paid or volunteer to moderate online opinions, is commonly known as the “fifty cent party” or “river crabs”.
Feed the cats
The Xinhua report titled as “Netizen suggestion: Anti-Smut campaign has to beat the rats and feed the cats” (网民献策：整治低俗之风既要“打鼠”也要“养猫”), referred vulgar content creators as rats and beating the rats being the first step in the anti-smut campaign while the second step would be the feeding of cats, which implies economic motivation for censor work.
The suggestion was made by a netizen, Mr Cui, working in an IT company, netentsec.com:
Let them feel the “pain” and “be frightened”!
A CCP secretary of party branch in a Beijing secondary school, Mr. Sun, suggested to strengthen the control of webmasters and online editors, as well as to employ more netizens to be voluntary content censors. (Note: It may sound strange to our readers that volunteers are employed.) A staff from a fashion company, Mr. Niu suggested to impose harsher punishment so that the websites and content creators involved would feel the “pain” and “be frightened”. Wang from bjjtw.gov.cn, a police website, suggested to extend the control to BT, E-donkey and other P2P tools.
From netizen representatives to people's congress representatives
Apart from actively participated in the anti-smut campaign, the so-called netizen representatives are getting more and more active in other political arena. According to an article in China Youth Online, on 17 of February, 4 netizens entered the People's Congress of Luo Yang city (洛陽) in Henan under the title of “netizen representatives”, they have also been nominated as the city's CPPCC committee members.
The writer of the article used “Lao Niu” as an example for showing that these “netizen representatives” fail to represent netizens as they are neither nominated by nor elected by netizens.
Netizen representatives involved in investigation
Another event that involved netizen representative is the investigation of the death of a youth in the police detention center in the eluding the cat incident in Yunnan. Southern Metropolis Daily has studied the background of the representatives (via ESWN's translation):
The human flesh search has come up with the real identities of all the netizen representatives on the investigation team. They all have media working experiences and backgrounds, and therefore they are regarded as people inside the system. Some netizens have labeled them “fifty-cent gang members.” In the virtual world of the Internet, “fifty-cent gang member” is a derogatory term for full-time or part-time commentators who speak out and lead Internet opinion while being employed and directed by the government.