Report: China Deploys Hundreds of Internet Censors to Shut Down Coronavirus Talk by JOHN HAYWARD for Breitbart
The Epoch Times on Tuesday reported that China has “engaged over 1,600 censors to scrub the internet of ‘sensitive’ information relating to the coronavirus outbreak.”
The information control effort apparently accelerated after Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping emerged from relative seclusion and asserted himself as being in control of the coronavirus response.
The Epoch Times claimed to obtain an internal report drafted on February 15 by officials in Hubei province, epicenter of the virus outbreak. These officials were alarmed by criticism of the government and persistent speculation that the number of people sickened and killed by the virus was much higher than the government was willing to admit.
China’s infamous “50 Cent Army” of online trolls was accordingly deployed to wipe out troublesome social media posts and divert the Chinese public’s attention to inspiring stories about government officials and those fighting on the front lines against the coronavirus:
The trolls, through technological and manual screening, had identified as many as 606,800 posts online with “sensitive or harmful information,” it said.
Their approach, it said, was to “timely dispel the online rumors” and “strike powerful blows offline.”
As of Feb. 14, the online censors had deleted as many as 54,000 such “rumors,” and had social media influencers write nearly 400 commentary articles to shape the narrative.
The regime’s propaganda efforts, the report said, should be directed toward promoting the effects of officials’ outbreak control measures and the “moving deeds” of volunteers, community workers, and the police.
Some professional “internet commentators” had also made 400,000 comments to “counter the negative public opinions,” according to the document.
The censors were particularly effective at erasing public expressions of anger over the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistleblower who was himself persecuted for “spreading rumors” when he warned about the danger posed by the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, long before the government was willing to admit those dangers. Grief and anger over Li’s death from the virus was erased almost as quickly as it could be posted online, replaced by government-approved celebrations of Li as a hero and martyr of the Chinese Communist Party.