Weibo, which means micro blog in Chinese, is a Chinese Twitter-like online networking tool. Hundreds of millions of netizens across China use Weibo as a platform to exchange information and voice opinions on social issues in a nation under strict news censorship. Sina Weibo is currently the largest social networking website in China with 368 million registered users as of June 2012.
Guangdong University sets up student group to monitor internet discussion
Guangdong Baiyun University formed a committee nicknamed the “Red Army of the Internet” to monitor students’ online activities, Chinese business magazine Caijing reported on Tuesday.
The committee was recently commended by the Guangdong Province University Student Affairs Committee as a distinguished student project.
The “Baiyun Red Army” consists of 9 faculty members and 6 student interns from each of the university’s colleges. Student interns had to go through a vigorous selection process that involved faculty nomination and rounds of interview.
The assessment criteria, apart from good grades, include a “firm political and ideological stance".
Faculty member Huang Yumei explained, “Participating students must demonstrate a firm stance in all situations. They fail to fulfill the position's requirements if they follow wpublic opinion and do not speak for the school.”
The chosen few have to take turns being on duty during their free time. They work 1.5 hours a day and get a salary of 7.5-8 yuan per hour.
Every day, the “army” monitors student postings on Weibo, QQ, Baidu and other online forums, tracking popular discussion topics, replying to student complaints and “correcting errors in public opinion”.
According to the report, 116 university related Weibo groups and some students’ personal accounts were being monitored.
“Through our monitoring, we understand students’ ideas and recognise areas for improvement such as food quality in the cafeteria. It allows us to address problems in a timely manner,” said Huang.
The news posted on Caijing’s official Weibo account was retweeted over a thousand times. Many netizens expressed anger: “Shame on our education [system],” one said.
Another said: “Please don’t ruin our next generation.”
A third wrote: “Contemporary Red Guards? It sounds to me like remnants of the Cultural Revolution.”
A fourth observed: “No wonder there are always students who remove negative comments about their schools on Weibo for no reason… This is definitely an impediment to the freedom of speech.”