Some 2 million people work at "monitoring" the Internet in China, employees of the sophisticated and hermetic censorship system of the Asian nation whose number was made public Saturday by state network CCTV.

The television network cited an article published in the local daily Beijing News that discusses "matters that have sparked big debates around the world."

Far from referring to the workers as "censors," CCTV called them "analysts of opinion on the Internet," and far from being in charge of eliminating messages from Weibo - the Chinese Twitter - they are analyzing public opinion, gathering opinions and writing reports that serve as a basis for taking decisions.

In the words of one of those employees, Tang Xiaotao, his work is based on "surveillance and gathering information connected to key words specified by clients, monitoring negative opinions and filing them, as well as delivering reports."

These network "vigilantes" are paid by the government as well as by companies that work on the Internet, as was specified in the article.

This is the first news to reveal details of the Chinese team that works to "clean the networks of rumors," a euphemism the government uses when referring to censorship applied to the Internet.

An online commentary considered "defamatory" is punishable by up to three years in jail, starting this year, if it attracts at least 5,000 followers or is forwarded by other users more than 500 times.

The measure, which went into effect in early September, almost brought Weibo to a standstill - the country's most popular social network suffered a decline in messages of more than 11 percent. EFE