Cooperation in Setting Online Culture [6:39 am]
Part traffic cop, part informer, part discussion moderator â€” and all without the knowledge of her fellow students â€” Ms. Hu is a small part of a huge national effort to sanitize the Internet. For years China has had its Internet police, reportedly as many as 50,000 state agents who troll online, blocking Web sites, erasing commentary and arresting people for what is deemed anti-Communist Party or antisocial speech.
But Ms. Hu, one of 500 students at her university’s newly bolstered, student-run Internet monitoring group, is a cog in a different kind of force, an ostensibly all-volunteer one that the Chinese government is mobilizing to help it manage the monumental task of censoring the Web.
In April that effort was named “Let the Winds of a Civilized Internet Blow,” and it is part of a broader “socialist morality” campaign, known as the Eight Honors and Disgraces, begun by the country’s leadership to reinforce social and political control.
[...] For her part, Ms. Hu beams with pride over her contribution toward building a “harmonious society.”
“We don’t control things, but we really don’t want bad or wrong things to appear on the Web sites,” she said. “According to our social and educational systems, we should judge what is right and wrong. And as I’m a student cadre, I need to play a pioneer role among other students, to express my opinion, to make stronger my belief in Communism.”
[...] “Five hundred members sounds unbelievable,” said a male undergraduate who, fearing official reprisals, asked that he be identified only as Zhu. “It feels very weird to think there are 500 people out there anonymously trying to guide you.”
As they try to steer discussion on bulletin boards, the monitors pose as ordinary undergraduates, in a bid for greater persuasive power.