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Chinese social network to recruit in-house censor

Job ad for 'monitoring editor' points to web crackdown

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Eagle-eyed users of China’s popular Twitter clone Sina Weibo have spotted an unusual job ad for the company, posted on its site on Monday – internet censor.

The advert, translated by the Wall Street Journal China, reportedly calls for candidates keen to try their hand at the role of “monitoring editor” who would be tasked with handling “various tasks related to information security” and “oversee the implementation and analysis of data”.

The role also requires successful applicants to “propose specific information-safety related requirements” and “gather requirements for information safety editing”, according to the WSJ.

The advert highlights the increasing role web platform providers such as Sina, Tencent and Renren have been forced to play in censoring their own users’ content.

The Chinese authorities are believed to have decided that self-regulation is a far more cost-effective and efficient way for the state to enforce its hardline requirements when it comes to social media, where the sheer volume of content being produced has proved problematic for government censors to manage.

As such, these firms have been forced to accept that if they want access to China’s vast internet population, they must plough ever greater sums into human resources to expand their army of in-house censors.

Given that they all have to abide by the same rules, there is no competitive disadvantage involved in doing so, although there are signs that the government’s uncompromising stance on censorship is increasing the financial burden.

Sina’s Q1 operating costs rose 60 per cent year-on-year thanks to personnel and infrastructure costs at its Weibo division, while full-time staff at the firm rose 50 per cent from 3,600 in 2010 to 5,400 in 2011, the WSJ said.

Chinese social media firms are the darlings of Silicon Valley investors at the moment, but whether these censorship requirements force a rethink in the long-term remains to be seen.

Despite the heavy investments already made, problems persist.

Both Sina and Tencent were forced to close their weibo platforms to comments for several days and handed out unspecified punishment by the authorities after unfounded rumours spread on their sites in the wake of the Bo Xilai scandal. ®

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