China’s government fabricates about 488 million social media comments a year — nearly the same as one day of Twitter’s total global volume — in a massive effort to distract its citizens from bad news and sensitive political debates, according to a study.

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.

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.

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Editorial Staff

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