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The Chinese government, subtle masters of propaganda, seem to have discovered a Sun Tzu formula for taming dissent on the internet: The best strategy may not be to confront critics directly, but to lull or distract them with a tide of good news.With complex data, it supports a simple thesis about life in the internet age: Arguing the facts often doesn't work; frequently, confrontation just makes people resist harder.The Chinese case examines the same conundrum explored by Christopher Graves, an Ogilvy public-relations executive turned behavioral scientist.The paradox is that China probably has the most prolific social-media activity in the world, but its authoritarian government also fears opposition.The three American researchers wanted to test the widely held theory that the Chinese government mobilizes an army of more than a million internet commentators to combat criticism of the regime. To test how the system actually worked, the researchers studied a cache of 43,757 Fifty Cent posts that was hacked in 2014 from the internet Propaganda Office of Zhanggong District in Jiangxi Province in southeast China.
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