PR firms punished for cleansing negative online posts


A group of four Beijing-based public relations firms have recently been convicted of illegal business operations for deleting negative posts on major Chinese search engines and social platforms for their clients.

Fines ranging from 300,000 to 4.5 million yuan ($643,400) have been given to the four companies - Beijing D&S, Chundingqiuhua Beijing Public Relations Consulting Limited, Beijing Huanyuqushi Science and Technology Limited and Jiufu Investment Consulting's Beijing branch. Employees at the agencies were also given jail terms of up to nine years, according to the court document on the China Judgement Online website on October 30. 

Illegal income from the companies' business was also required to be handed over to the authorities.

The PR firms were found to have been involved in helping clients including Shanghai-listed Buchan Pharmaceuticals and Amway delete online posts and search results on Baidu that would undermine the client companies' image.

Beijing D&S helped Amway delete more than 1,800 negative posts and search posts on Baidu, while charging some 5.85 million yuan for the service since 2015.

Jiufu Beijing also handled an IPO service project contracted by Buchang Pharmaceuticals in May to September 2016, gathering and deleting online posts that might hinder the completion of an IPO during that period. Buchang completed its A-share IPO on November 18, 2016.

Furen Pharmaceutical Group Co also paid 1.39 million yuan for similar post-deleting services from Chundingqiuhua Beijing Public Relations Consulting Limited and Beijing Huanyuqushi Science and Technology Limited from May 2016 to June 2018. Furen was reportedly at a crucial stage of its reorganization during the period.

The PR firms charged somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 yuan for deletion of online negative posts, Sina Finance channel reported.

The sentence has caused quite a stir on Chinese social platforms, with people finding it astonishing that the PR firms could manipulate the internet to such an extent. 

Beijing-based Legal Daily previously reported that the paid service has three stages - the network public relations, the post deleting intermediate stage and the management stage.

The public relations stage is in charge of hunting potential clients and the intermediate stage is to verify the possibility of deleting such posts and negotiating the charge rate. The management stage involves people who are in charge of website management, the forum managers or even hackers, and they take assignments from the intermediate stage and perform the deleting actions, and charge for the job.

Source: http://www.globaltimes.cn

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