Friday, October 24, 2008

Supergirl Li Yuchun and her 50 cent Army (With Update at Bottom)

I've been following an interesting exchange recently on Danwei . I'm sure that everyone is familiar with the Chinese netizens who flood web postings about China with all kinds of comments, usually 'defending the nation's honor' against perceived bias and whatnot. Some of these people are believed to be employed by the Chinese government in what one sinologist terms the '50 cent army'. He believes that these people are paid small amounts of money per post they make supporting certain stances held by the party. Of course, the majority of these people are not in anyone's employ, but the theory makes sense. Check out any Economist article on China to see what I mean.

The interesting thing is, this is a huge phenomenon in the Chinese netsphere. Chinese celebrities have their own armies of netizens, paid and unpaid, to shower them with compliments and flood negative coverage with scathing criticism. One of these, I found out yesterday, is Supergirl Li Yuchun.

An article about a recent listing of Beijing heroes by Time Out Magazine has been flooded with dozens of comments that basically heap her with praise. What makes it interesting is that Danwei is a hangout for people who constantly scrutinize Chinese media, whether it's for a hobby, professionally or as academic research. It's like a mycologist getting a fungal infection.

Anyway, it's worth taking a look. In the meantime, I am currently hiring conscripts for a 50 cent army of my own. Apply within...

Update: the 50 cent army seems to be taking it easy with Danwei. I estimate they've only made about 70 posts since the story started last week. That's understandable as the article wasn't negative, and it was, after all, in English. While I was playing around in the postings, I came across a woman named Lili who is researching this specific phenomena. She shared a very interesting anecdote:
Actually, I have seen these kinds of wrecks many times. The worst time was Li's haters attached her fans' Baidu Post (BBS or public forum), using program generated curse comments. The auto-comments could reach 60-100 pieces per minute. Her supporters learned to use the same strategy to defend. Eventually, they drove Baidu servers, the biggest internet engine in China, to collapse for a few days.

That's just awesome. 

1 comment:

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