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China must hire thousands to police social networks

While the Chinese government has never been open about how exactly it censors its own form of micro-blogging site, Weibo, a look at statistics and some quick calculations from one man has suggested the authorities could have several thousand people on the payroll, who’s only job is to flag and censor comments that the government deems unsuitable for public viewing.

With over 300 million users sending over 100 million messages a day, you’d assume a big team of people would be involved in censoring that sort of material – if they could effectively do it at all. According to TechnologyReview’s rundown they do, managing to block over 30 per cent of the infringing messages within a minute of them being posted. The rest were censored within 24 hours.

What users tap into that little box could be removed by one of thousands of government employees.

Dan Wallach of Rice University in Houston, Texas, calculates that in order to do that, there would need to be several thousand people actively trawling through messages and blocking them individually. This would also need to be combined with some automated procedures that perhaps highlight certain keywords, or block particular phrases automatically.

“Since the highest volume of deletions occur within 5-10 minutes of posting, Weibo must be censoring them in near real time. If an average censor can scan around 50 posts a minute, that would require some 1400 censors at any instant to handle the 70,000 posts pouring in. And if they work 8 hour shifts, that’s a total of 4200 censors on the payroll each day.”

It’s also suspected that as a user, if you begin to run up lots of deletions and censors, your name will become increasingly prevalent in checks and the messages you send will receive more in-depth scrutiny.

KitGuru Says: Thankfully we don’t have to deal with this sort of censorship in these parts of the world. Twitter might be benile most of the time, but at least its a bit more honest.

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