In 2010, Guangdong Baiyun University built up their own “Students’ Internet and Social Media Information Monitoring” team. Last Friday, the team was awarded Guangdong province’s distinguished college student management project.
Students at the university call the team the “Internet Red Army.” The army is led by over 50 student counselors who monitor students’ activities and conversations on Weibo (China’s Twitter), Baidu Tieba (online communities), and QQ (IM service). According to a report by Nandu, the army’s primary responsibility is to control negative sentiment, monitor online conversation, repel wrong opinions and protect the university’s image.
Huang Yumei, the teacher who’s in charge of the project, told journalists that it all started with a false Weibo post back in 2010 which claimed that a few students had died at Baiyun University. Though the post was later proved a rumor, the incident caught the attention of school authorities and an Internet army composed of teachers, student counselors and students was set up.
There are 6 students working part-time at the team. They take the job of keeping an eye on their peers in their spare time, about 1.5 hours a day, on a computer provided by the university. Pay is RMB 7.5 to 8 yuan per hour. Currently, about 116 university-related Weibo accounts and students’ personal accounts are under watch.
Hearing the news, China’s troops of netizens on Weibo were outrageous, calling the participating students “traitors” and equaling them with Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Many thought it was a shame for a university to openly promote censorship. Netizen 领结叔叔 commented: “Our universities and students are ruined.”
And guess what. “Baiyun Red Army” is now a censored word on Sina Weibo.
China’s 5 mao party (50 cents party) is a group of world-famous Internet commentators hired by the government to steer public opinion online. Now a new party is born – the 8 yuan party.