A gigantic Chinese social-media platform is offering iPhones for citizen censors

Eyes on the prize.
Eyes on the prize.
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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One of China’s largest social networks has a proposal for its users—help censor posts, and earn the chance to win an iPhone.

Weibo, a Chinese social network with over 340 million monthly users, posted a message (link in Chinese, registration required) on its official account yesterday (Sept. 27) announcing it would seek volunteer censors to help report users who post offensive content. In exchange, the company will offer cash stipends and prizes including an iPhone.

The ad highlights how Chinese tech companies are facing increasing pressure to remove politically sensitive content from the internet.

In an infographic (link in Chinese), Weibo said it is seeking 1,000 “Weibo supervisors” to look out for ”sexual, illegal, or harmful” content in their spare time. The selected supervisors will receive access to a special mechanism that lets them “report” such content.

Weibo did not respond to a request from Quartz for further information on the post, or on what happens after these supervisors file a report.

Applicants who are accepted as supervisors must report at least 200 posts in order to receive a stipend of 200 yuan ($30). In addition, every month the 10 supervisors who log the most reports will be eligible to win a prize. In addition to an iPhone, these prizes also include a domestic-brand smartphone and a tablet.

According to the post, Weibo is conducting the effort with guidance from the Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), one of the main government branches that oversees the country’s online censorship policy.

Weibo’s message comes as the Chinese government continues to crack down on internet freedom in advance of the upcoming 19th Party Congress, a key political event that will determine the leadership of the Communist Party for the next five years. This week, the CAC announced it had fined Weibo for distributing “pornographic content, content propagating ethnic hatred, and related comments.” Tencent’s WeChat and Baidu’s Tieba, two other social networks, also received fines for similar offenses. Earlier this month, the CAC released a set of rules calling on social networks to penalize group chat administrators who oversee discussions about sensitive topics.

Online censorship is the norm on China’s internet, and internet companies regularly police content using their in-house employees and technology. They seldom, however, call on their own users to help with these efforts, let alone offer prizes for assistance. Sharing a job posting is one way the platform can signal to authorities that it is willing ramp up its censorship efforts—and also warn users to not cross the line.