Other recent hot topics include the US raid that resulted in the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, China’s efforts to build an aircraft carrier, equal opportunity in education, food safety and vegetable prices.
On Sina Weibo — China’s answer to Twitter, which is officially blocked in China — the pro-government netizens are working on tainting the reputation of detained artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未).
Web commentators “are paid based on the number of comments they post and they can also get a bonus if one of their posts is named one of the most popular on the site,” Li said.
Experts are divided on the overall effectiveness of the massive Web operation.
“On the main hot topics, three days into the debate, only the propaganda remains online,” creating a “false general opinion,” which the great majority of Web users will blindly follow, de Spens said. “That is the major success of Chinese propaganda.”
However, Goldkorn said that Chinese Web users are “quite savvy ... they tend not to trust anyone.”
“When there are large numbers of comments that are toeing a government line, it certainly makes it more difficult for people who disagree to have their voice heard above the noise,” Goldkorn nevertheless acknowledged.
The operation does have an unfortunate downside for the leadership — independent pro-government Web users are often accused of being wu mao, a term that has become an insult.