Not content to simply restrict their citizens' access to Internet topics they consider obscene or inflammatory, the Chinese government is now resorting to astroturfing to affect political discussions online. Astroturfing is the practice by using the relative anonymity of the Internet to create a positive image of a company, organization, person, or in this case, a generally repressive political society.

The propaganda departments of provincial and municipal governments have recently been instructed to build teams of internet commentators, whose job is to guide discussion on public bulletin boards away from politically sensitive topics by posting opinions anonymously or under false names.

In my view, such underhanded tactics could be more dangerous than efforts at blocking content. When a website that might contain "objectionable" material is blocked, it is clear to the web surfer that the government is behind it. When that same surfer reads a discussion on an online forum, they can never be certain that the voice crying out for "moderation" is heartfelt, or whether they are a government shill.