Recently, Beijing police cracked down six Chinese online PR companies, which colluded with agents and web workers to delete online content illegally for cash. More than ten suspects were involved and arrested for the crime of illegal business operation, bribing non-government workers and non-government workers accepting bribes. 19 suspects had been approved to arrest, involving over 10 million yuan (USD 1.63 million).
This case was another typical work of Chinese police cracking down organized online rumor fabrication, as well as the biggest online PR company arrested after Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Supreme People’s Court announced new judicial interpretation about online cases.
After investigation of IWOM CEO and corporate representative, IWOM offered public opinion monitor and positive brand image maintenaince services for more than 50 big companies since 2007, one of the most important business was to remove content for cash. IWOM annual revenue reached 70 million yuan (USD 11.44 million).
IWOM PR director said that once monitoring department of the company found negative information about its client, they would report it to the client and decide whether to remove it or not, then settle the price. If the client want to remove the information, IWOM would ask a web worker or agents to remove the content. The price was settled according to websites and difficulty of removing, ranging from hundreds to two or three thousand yuan. IWOM PR department spent 470,000 yuan (USD 76,788) in 9 months to pay agents and bribe websites editors.
Agents all had connections with websites editors who were authorized to remove content from websites. Dozens of websites editors were involved in IWOM crime network. One editor admitted that he was just making extra money by helping “friends”, he could earn 200 yuan (USD 33) for deleting one post. He made about 30,000 yuan (USD 4,901) for working with IWOM agent.
These online PR companies usually contacted agents and web workers/editors via QQ.
IWOM PR director confessed that she removed a video exposure of private villa belonged to a person in charge of a Qingdao company. It cost 1,500 yuan (USD 245) for deleting the video on a website, in total it added up to about 30,000 yuan (USD 4,901).
Another staff at IWOM confessed, in August 2013, a real estate company’s project in Qingdao was exposed online for misleading advertisement. IWOM contacted about 10 websites then, spending 12,000 yuan (USD 1,961) in total.