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The Internet Politics

Vietnam Admits Deploying Bloggers 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the propaganda-posters-were-much-cooler-than-blog-posts dept.
New submitter jespada writes "BBC News reports the Vietnamese Communist Party is approaching its internet image in a more sophisticated manner by hiring shill bloggers to argue its case. From the article: 'Hanoi Propaganda and Education Department head Ho Quang Loi said that the authorities had hired hundreds of so-called "internet polemists" in the fight against "online hostile forces." While the exact number of these activists is unknown, Mr Loi revealed that his organisation is running at least 400 online accounts and 20 microblogs. Regular visitors on popular social media networks in Vietnam such as Facebook have long noticed the existence of a number of pro-regime bloggers, who frequently post comments and articles supportive of the Communist Party. The bloggers also take part in online discussions, where they fiercely attack anybody who they see as critical of the regime.'"
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Vietnam Admits Deploying Bloggers

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  • And (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phrogman (80473) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:03PM (#42570577) Homepage

    Do you really think our western democratic political parties are not doing the exact same thing - even if they refer to them as marketing consultants or something similar?
    I have sure noticed that some topics on various news sites and forums attract *immediate* right-wing commentary denigrating whatever the article is about.
    I expect every political party out there is doing something similar. After all politics is more about appearance than substance these days.

    • Re:And (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmailCURIE.com minus physicist> on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:06PM (#42570603) Homepage

      I have sure noticed that some topics on various news sites and forums attract *immediate* right-wing commentary denigrating whatever the article is about.

      Anything linked on drudge, instapundit, hot air or gateway pundit will attract nearly immediate commentary. That doesn't make a conspiracy. Then again, considering those sites are pretty much the only thing keeping left leaning news organizations alive these days by hits. I'd figure you'd be happy that we're out there and reading this stuff.

      • If you think Vietnam is the only country employing rogue bloggers in spreading half-truths and outright lies, in trying to fool their own citizen, think again.

        China is doing the same.

        Russia too.

        And... surprisingly, USA is doing the same thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Mashiki (184564)

          Yeah. All one has to do is look at Obama's "truth teams" for the glorious insight into how that's working.

        • In the West, and especially the US, we have massive, pervasive astroturfing (and other kinds of black PR) advocating for the interests of private power. It's morally as bad as what the Communists are doing -- possibly worse, since they advocate policies which attack our fundamental rights and freedoms for private profit.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        Anyone who uses the term "left leaning" sounds like a McCarthyite neo-fascist from the 1950s, which is to say a conservative.
    • Re:And (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:08PM (#42570627)
      What is YOUR point? It is good to call out tactics like this no matter who is pulling them, whether its one kind of government or another, or a corporation. That Hanoi occupies so weak a PR position they need to hire people to attack critics says a lot about their strength as a country. Don't get me wrong, where we find these tactics being deployed at home - the very same conclusions apply. That shouldn't stop us from calling them out. I *would* stop short of saying everyone out there does the same, sans evidence.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Correct.

        Calling these astroturfers out in public by name on the web is precisely the best way to blunt their attack.
        Sure they run off and create a new personality, and you have do it all over again.

        If they want to discuss in civil discourse fine. Engage them and persuade them.

        But if they just want to be attack dogs, name them and shame them then don't feed the trolls.

        • by sageres (561626)

          Funny I did an experiment once on Huffington Post. One of the regular left-wing liberal posters have caught my eye: posting too fast and always too often. So good thing HP allows for the message history. That person was posting non-stop for 8 hours per day every day! A new post every five to ten minutes.
          I am more than positive that it was one of the "paid" organizations specifically designed to shape a public opinion, and this was their representative.

          The problem with the internet is that you can never put

      • Re:And (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aurispector (530273) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:32PM (#42570763)

        I agree with everything you're saying, except perhaps the implication that there is no real difference between the unelected communist government of Vietnam and western democracy. Hanoi's problem isn't just a "weak PR position". They're old school tyrants plain and simple. It's not like their people have the freedom to dissent or form opposition parties.

        There is a world of difference here and it's important to acknowledge that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          Hanoi's problem isn't just a "weak PR position". They're old school tyrants plain and simple. It's not like their people have the freedom to dissent or form opposition parties.

          If you don't think that our corporate masters want the same for us, you're not thinking.

          • You have to admit that there is a world of difference between western democracy, no matter how flawed, and they types of tyrannical regimes as seen in Vietnam. I wouldn't put them in the same category as Iran and North Korea as exporters of tyranny but the point still stands - opposition is not allowed.

            The other thing is that you can't do is pretend that there will ever be a perfect government. Corrupt influences exist regardless of they kind of government you have. The best you can do is design the gove

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Fjandr (66656)

          Yes. In the West there's the illusion of choice. Makes people so much more accepting of unelected power-brokers.

          • In the West there's the illusion of choice. Makes people so much more accepting of unelected power-brokers.

            There is a pretty strong argument that democracy has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with protecting the powerful from the effects of violent revolution.

            • Make that argument, don't just reference it. I think representative democracy as it stands in the US now fits that description, but it needn't. We can change it for the better.
              • Make that argument, don't just reference it. I think representative democracy as it stands in the US now fits that description, but it needn't.

                Explain why you think it, don't just say it. Hypocrite.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              There is a pretty strong argument that democracy has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with protecting the powerful from the effects of violent revolution.

              Even if you don't believe in such a notion as inherent rights you can believe that giving people rights can make a violent revolution less likely. Thus, everyone's needs can be addressed. Unfortunately, it seems that the threat of revolution is not being taken sufficiently seriously.

              • by tehcyder (746570)
                Democracy is by definition a compromise. One thing it does is allow a compromise between the rich and powerful minority and the poor and weak majority, with the former giving up some of their money and power in the form of paying taxes towards society's greater good and allowing legislation preventing slavery and so on, and the latter agreeing not to string the former up from lampposts every few years when their lives become intolerable.

                The concept of "inherent rights" is meaningless when you have no pow

        • Well, that's the thing. If the government there actually sees the need for astroturfers instead of just sending some thugs to the dissidents, it cannot be as bad as you describe.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I agree with everything you're saying, except perhaps the implication that there is no real difference between the unelected communist government of Vietnam and western democracy. Hanoi's problem isn't just a "weak PR position". They're old school tyrants plain and simple. It's not like their people have the freedom to dissent or form opposition parties.

          There is a world of difference here and it's important to acknowledge that.

          If they have no freedom at all, why does the government waste time using shills to shout them down? There must be some sort of conversation going on involving government criticism, or else the government wouldn't feel they were being criticised.

          And no, that is not a defence of the Vietnamese government or a statement that the Vietnamese people are as free as those in the West.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Actually it says a lot about their strength. They publicly admit to doing unlike all those others who lie about it. Who hide behind misleading names, who hire thousands of people to tell lies.

        Of course the reality of the internet bites back. Are we up to a trillion pages yet? So many pages no matter how hard you try with your trolling, you disappear unless there is real long term interest. All you can really end up doing is driving interest in the subject not your particular viewpoint and that given time

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do you really think our western democratic political parties are not doing the exact same thing - even if they refer to them as marketing consultants or something similar?
      I have sure noticed that some topics on various news sites and forums attract *immediate* right-wing commentary denigrating whatever the article is about.
      I expect every political party out there is doing something similar. After all politics is more about appearance than substance these days.

      I agree. It is obvious that western 'democracy' has a lot of money to fund people that are willing to go online to debate. The more money, the more people online.

      Personally I think the Vietnamese Communist Party are very welcome on the internet. If they can argue their case for the public, they should be welcomed to do so, as this is the foundation of democracy. They will also read opposing views...

      I really believe more communication is good for mankind. Memes will spread.

      Do good.

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        The problem is... the Communist Party ISN'T reading opposing views, they're hiring or employing people to write their message in response or as an author. They have talking points to get out, they aren't there to engage in a conversation with you, they're there to oppose you, and they will do so beyond any point where you would have made your case to someone with an open mind.

        For all we know, the people they have doing their online shilling already know that they are handing out lies and half-truths. They

        • and they will do so beyond any point where you would have made your case to someone with an open mind.

          Where are these people with an open mind? They certainly don't frequent internet comment areas. Heck, look at Slashdot - It's cause for celebration once every 6 months or so when someone actually says: "Yes, good point, you've changed my opinion." Other than that, it's just contradiction.

          (The full half hour).

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Heck, look at Slashdot - It's cause for celebration once every 6 months or so when someone actually says: "Yes, good point, you've changed my opinion." Other than that, it's just contradiction.

            I agree. Wait...

          • by tnk1 (899206)

            I admit, my postulated person with an open mind was strictly a theoretical case. Point being, there's no real up side to these sorts of astroturfers on a discussion site, even beyond the fact that everyone else is just talking at each other. One wonders why the commies are even bothering.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      A lot of companies are, too. Hell, a university I used to be affiliated with had someone in the communications department editing its professors' Wikipedia articles. This kind of stuff is everywhere!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As long as they kept the edits to the strictly factual, I wouldn't necessarily oppose that.

        Points of controversy would be another story, but the facts of employment, publication, awards, would be fair enough game.

    • After all politics is more about appearance than substance these days.

      I was with you until until the end there. Then I abandoned your myopic, amnesiac, alzheimer's afflicted ass.

    • Re:And (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:23PM (#42570725)

      I like how you mention "right-wing commentary denigrating whatever the article is about" then make a half hearted effort to affect fairness with the whimpy "expect every political party out there is doing something similar" line.

      Well played sir. You have a promising career in astroturfing.

      • Re:And (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Phrogman (80473) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:46PM (#42570845) Homepage

        Well, ok, what I posted was slanted. I am sure that left-wing political parties and interest groups are just as likely to be doing the same thing.
        The problem is I am left-wing generally, so I don't notice much of the commentary that I agree with or which seems sensible to me, as much as I notice the stuff that I *personally* consider to be right-wing batshit crazy.
        I was not however being even handed in my response, you are correct.

        My point was that this article is pointing out the Vietnamese Communist party is using these tactics, and this seems to suggest an air of "oh how low-down and despicable" of them, when I am fairly certain that either our western political parties - or "advocacy groups" on their behalf are doing the same thing.

        It seems particularly noticeable on CNN to me. Whenever Obama is mentioned, a ton of posts seem to try to redirect the readers to a different but unrelated topic, usually by massive trolling and racial insults. Now, perhaps this is just reflective of the readership on CNN, or the American people in general but it seems very consisten and very immediate.

        Caveat: I am Canadian, and I am *absolutely* sure that our current Prime Minister's Conservative party would do this, they have already been caught cheating with their finances in multiple ridings and elections, and we had a huge robo-call scandal in the last election where people pretending to represent the Liberal Part (that's middle of the road politically mind you, not left wing) and the New Democratic party (they are also pretty middle of the road these days but used to be more left-wing) called voters to tell them that their poling stations had moved (to addresses that didn't exist, were the wrong location etc), deliberately trying to ensure that those supporting their opposition parties had less chances to vote. It all got blamed on 1 unauthorized staffer of course, but since it involved thousands of phone calls this seems rather unlikely.

        Astroturfing articles that are critical of your political belief seems almost guaranteed as a tactic these days, here in the west, not just in foreign communist countries.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          Your point is well taken in regard to trying to restore even handedness to your posting, but I'm interested in why the response to a discovery that the Vietnamese are astroturfing means that we need to point out that everyone else does.

          If astroturfing is bad, it seems to me that we should be decrying that Vietnam is doing it. When an article comes out that the Republicans, Democrats, Tories, Labour, etc are doing it, we should decry their use of it. To me, pointing out that other people do it comes off as

          • by marnues (906739)
            As far as I'm concerned, as an American, the entire point of reading the article is to give me a new perspective on my leaders. I have no context for how this affects Vietnam or it's people. I can make brash assumptions about Vietnam's Orwellian society or whatever, but I have no skin in that game. I do not keep track of the pros and cons of world governments, especially not one as unimportant to my life as Vietnam.

            Where this does affect me is allowing my eyes to open to similar abuses around me. Wher
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      I completely agree. There is not a "side" out there without trolls. Ever since atheist news groups started getting run over by christian trolls the net has had shills for all sides of every argument.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well.. it depends how you're paid and where you're shilling and how if it's equivalent to this.

      though in the west you'll find plenty of free shills - after all special interest groups etc have normal people supporting their goals too usually, sometimes they're stupid eeeediots but they're people too. and even in russia Putin has plenty of real fans who think he's doing excellent job and will beat up anyone who thinks otherwise, without getting paid. these are legitimate opinions. lot's of employees of compa

    • Not just political parties. Many major tech companies have a large presence on Reddit and other forums to quickly "influence" potential adverse or advantageous posts. When there are millions of viewers, it's worth a lot of money to sway opinions.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Do you really think our western democratic political parties are not doing the exact same thing - even if they refer to them as marketing consultants or something similar?

      Do you really think every single corporation in the Fortune 500 doesn't do exactly the same thing - even if they refer to them as "new media consultants" or something similar?

      It's chicken-and-the-egg. People say they want government to "run like a business" but they really don't. In fact, most of us don't even want businesses to be run

    • by hutsell (1228828)

      ... where do I apply for one of these blog-shilling jobs--getting paid cash for troll posting comments on the Internet all day. Sounds kind of sweet, especially if it's a living wage.

  • Well, isn't that them doing their job then, to spread propaganda?

    As to the Education part, well, they're thinking of the children, as well. You know, filling their propaganda needs . . . ?

    At least it's not Re-Education any more. That was nasty, to say the least.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:07PM (#42570615)

    Socialist Republic of Vietnam has no need for so called propaganda campaign. Evidence of lies from Western capitalist press. Socialist Republic of Vietnam for peace and friendship for all peoples but above all for workers. Slashdot.com part of technics to attack Socialist Republic of Vietnam in public opinion courts.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:11PM (#42570639) Journal

    ...more candid than Microsoft!? Wow...

  • Microsoft and their sleazy PR outfit invented 'astroturfing' and used it with great effectiveness to advance their agenda. It's only to be expected, then, that communist governments would turn to astroturfing as a more-effective form of the propaganda they have always relied on as a substitute for truth, honesty, and fairness.

    • So soon do the young forget. MS wasn't the first, Big tobacco was doing it in the 50s already, Rockefeller was doing it for kerosene in the 1800s. Edison did it for direct current back then.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's newsworthy about this post is not that various states engage in internet propaganda (through bloggers/commenters), but that Vietnam is the first country to be transparent enough to admit it. Hell, propaganda always existed, Internet is just another medium.

  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @07:43PM (#42570827)
    If you have spare time, go to the Wikipedia page of your favorite (however defined) corporation. Click "View history". Find the top five contributors and do a WHOIS on their IPs. Now, compare this to the locations of offices owned by your favorite corporation. It can be rather entertaining.
  • USSR did it first (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Back in 30's and 40's, a lot of US artists were in the payroll of the Stalin's KGB.

    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Star-Over-Hollywood-Colonys/dp/1594031460/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    http://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Party-Communism-American-Industry/dp/0761513760/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Later, the same tactics took place, but then operated by other communist countries. CIA had its artists too, but in much less number and budget.

  • Seriously, are you awake?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      and especially FOX, ABC and CNN as well

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's really quite impressive how the media works in the US. They're all on the same side, just using different talking points to convince different people. The end result is the same.

  • So, just like Microsoft and Apple. How can you tell the difference between one morally bankrupt organization and another?

    • To be specific, I am referring to the fact that both Apple and Microsoft employ astroturfers to post material favorable to themselves on community sites. Just like morally bankrupt communists. Do you wish me to be more specific? (Just show up with some more spinmod points and I will oblige.)

      • To be specific, I am referring to the fact that both Apple and Microsoft employ astroturfers to post material favorable to themselves on community sites. Just like morally bankrupt communists. Do you wish me to be more specific? (Just show up with some more spinmod points and I will oblige.)

        Well, that's because Android is a thorn in the side of Apple, and Android on a desktop scares the crap out of Microsoft.

  • I believe the word is "polemicist" not "polemist" (which, incidentally, my iPadcwants to change to "pole mist").

  • I'm shocked any regime has to hire shills to blog about how glorious they are. It seems like most nations have enough jingoist idiots to do that gratis.
  • by fullback (968784) on Saturday January 12, 2013 @09:55PM (#42571607)

    The U.S. government has 'em beat -- they've had the TV, newspaper and movie industries in their back pocket for a generation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So Communists are using propaganda now? Well, thanks for the heads up.

  • I love that there is such a thing as the head of the Hanoi Propaganda and Education Department. That makes my day. Don't they know you never actually name your propaganda department the Propaganda Department? I'm pretty sure it was covered in Running a Dictatorship of the Proletariat for Dummies.
  • I realize it's unpopular to like what we have in the West, and most people express this with fawning adoration for its opposites, but I beg to differ.

    Communism sucks in every way.

    It doesn't work politically, it sabotages the intellectual and moral will of the population, and it even fails economically, wherever it is tried.

    I'm sure the VC are trying hard to cover up their failures with propaganda. It's what they always do. And yet, that means collapse is right around the corner.

    It'll be interesting to see t

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      It'll be interesting to see the USA granted a late victory in this war.

      Oh, for fuck's sake, give it up Rambo. You lost.

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