China’s content controls show no signs of slowing anytime soon. At the turn of the new year, social network and gaming behemoth Tencent posted a notice (in Chinese) to hire 200 content “patrollers”, who will filter content that are illegal and deemed “inappropriate” by the authority across the firm’s multiple open content platforms, including news portal Tencent News, news aggregator app Tiantian Kuaibao, messaging giants WeChat and QQ, and video streaming service Tencent Video.
The new recruits—whom Tencent calls the “Penguin Patrol Unit” referring to the firm’s lovable mascot—will consist of 10 veteran journalists, 70 experienced writers from Tencent’s content platforms, and 120 netizens with adequate knowledge on cybersecurity.
Jinri Toutiao, a fast growing personalized news aggregator and an arch-rival to Tiantian Kuaibao, also put up a notice this week to recruit content review editors, preferably members of the Communist Party. Many college students and low-skilled workers have been taking up these content auditing jobs—which are dry but provide a flexible work schedule—to make extra yuan. Toutiao reportedly maintains a censor factory of thousands of auditors in Tianjin.
Each month the Penguin patrols are asked to spot no fewer than 300 pieces of content. They are paid in neither cash nor bitcoin, but QQ Coins, a virtual currency that can be used to purchase QQ-related products like game credits. The popularity of QQ coins, which are retailed at one yuan ($0.15) each, once gave rise to a black market.
China’s media watchdog is pushing the new wave of content distributors into stricter self-censorship as they gradually replace institutional news outlets. According to the latest data from Talking Data, Tencent News is the second largest news app in China at 10.82% penetration rate after Toutiao at 17.53%. NetEase News comes third at 6.35% and state-backed Yidian Zixun follows at 5.92%.