Beijing - China is employing two million people to keep tabs
on people's internet use, according to state media, in a rare glimpse into the
secret world of Beijing's vast online surveillance operation.
Many of the employees are simply performing keyword searches
to monitor the tens of millions of messages being posted daily on popular
social media and microblogging sites, the Beijing News said.
The exact number of people employed to trawl through the internet
in a bid to prevent social unrest and limit criticism of the ruling Community
party has long been the subject of speculation.
The "web police" are employed by the government's
propaganda arm, as well as by commercial sites, the Beijing News said.
It said that despite their large number, the monitors are
not always able to prevent comments that are deemed by the government to be
undesirable from being published and reposted.
China's censorship authorities tightly control online
content for fear of political or social unrest that could challenge the
Communist party's grip on power.
Authorities in recent years banned the popular social media
sites Facebook and Twitter, which were instrumental in the wave of uprisings
that swept the Middle East and North Africa from late 2010 in what became known
as the Arab Spring.
Last year authorities blocked The New York Times after it
cited financial records showing relatives of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao
had controlled assets worth at least $2.7bn - a report China branded a smear.
500m web users
In recent months authorities have ramped up already strict
censoring of domestic social media sites such as the popular microblog service
They have detained hundreds of people for spreading
"rumours" online, and warned high-profile bloggers with millions of
followers to post more positive comments.
The Supreme Court said this month that internet users could
face three years in jail if "slanderous" information spread online is
viewed more than 5 000 times or forwarded more than 500 times.
China has more than 500 million internet users, making it
the world's largest online population.