Chinese police take down gang of inventive online reputation cleaners

Police in Shanghai have busted what they say is actually gang who duped websites into deleting negative reviews by posing as government censors in addition to media personnel.

The gang made 3 million yuan (US$470,000) via the activity before the bust, according to Chinese news site

In late 2016, the gang commenced advertising its services to companies wanting criticism of their firms scrubbed via the internet, according to Shanghai police.

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Deleting articles for cash is actually illegal in China nevertheless is actually estimated to be a 100 million yuan industry, according to state-run China Discipline in addition to Supervision News.

The gang was headed by two men who had been charged with running an illegal business in addition to forging government documents in addition to seals, police said.

Once hired, they could contact websites reposting the negative reports, posing as staff via the media organisation in which wrote the original articles.

The gang could then send a statement with the source’s official seal to request the removal: “We [the media organisation] were alerted by the authorities in which the article was not suitable for online distribution as the incident mentioned inside article is actually under police investigation.”

If in which failed, the gang could pose as staff via the China Internet Illegal in addition to Unhealthy Information Reporting Centre in addition to order the deletion of the articles, using an email address in which was similar to those used by the real agency, police said.

The authorities said the gang had roughly 1,000 articles pulled via the web, charging each company up to 100,000 yuan for its services.

In China, the item is actually not uncommon for companies to pay hackers or website staff to delete negative information posted online. Chinese authorities often also order the removal of certain posts deemed unsuitable, as part of their routine censorship efforts.

nevertheless Jiang Shengjie, via the Shanghai Public Security Bureau’s cybersecurity unit, said the gang’s approach was completely new.

“inside past, such cases merely involved companies paying directly to remove the articles. We have never encountered such cases where people have posed as media enterprises or government authorities to order the removal of articles,” Jiang said.

Wei Wuhui, an assistant professor via Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s media school, said the gang flourished because Chinese news portals were used to government intervention in their content.

Some local governments also tried to limit negative reports on key firms, Wei said.

“The companies are key taxpayers inside region in addition to the authorities are keen to protect them,” he said. “So the item sometimes leaves ordinary citizens confused about whether a government body’s order to remove articles is actually truly a genuine request or not.”

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