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China - Original COVID-19 coronavirus news thread: weeks 1 - 4 (December 30, 2019 - January 25, 2020)

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  • Leaked Documents Show How China’s Army of Paid Internet Trolls Helped Censor the Coronavirus

    As the coronavirus spread in China, the government stage-managed what appeared on the domestic internet to make the virus look less severe and the authorities more capable, according to thousands of leaked directives and other files.

    by Raymond Zhong, Paul Mozur and Aaron Krolik, The New York Times, and Jeff Kao, ProPublica

    Dec. 19, 5 a.m. EST


    The CAC’s coronavirus controls began in the first week of January. An agency directive ordered news websites to use only government-published material and not to draw any parallels with the deadly SARS outbreak in China and elsewhere that began in 2002, even as the World Health Organization was noting the similarities.

    At the start of February, a high-level meeting led by Xi called for tighter management of digital media, and the CAC’s offices across the country swung into action. A directive in Zhejiang Province, whose capital is Hangzhou, said the agency should not only control the message within China, but also seek to “actively influence international opinion.”

    Agency workers began receiving links to virus-related articles that they were to promote on local news aggregators and social media. Directives specified which links should be featured on news sites’ home screens, how many hours they should remain online and even which headlines should appear in boldface.