The police have arrested a number of suspects in a criminal group responsible for multiple smear campaigns and fake news against high-profile Chinese internet companies including Baidu, local media is reporting (in Chinese). The malicious attacks not only targeted at companies but also their top executives. Police have confiscated the suspects’ computers and mobile phones.

According to local reports, the criminal group used a fake PR agency as a cover for its illegal activities and recruited ghostwriters and media to create and promote fake content targeting specifically at internet companies. The so-called “black PR” (黑公关) campaigns were carried out in an organized fashion. After a “fake post” is published, the so-called “internet water army” (网络水军)—a group of internet ghostwriters paid to post comments—would repost and share on the internet.

A Baidu spokesperson has confirmed the news to Chinese online media Huanqiu.com saying that “the company welcomes objective criticism and discussions, but has zero tolerance with malicious slander and defamation, personal attacks, and other illegal behaviors.” Baidu said it is currently cooperating with the authorities and is working on submitting evidence about these malicious activities.

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

What you get

Full access to all premium content and our full archives

Members'-only newsletters

Preferential access and discounts to all TechNode events

Direct access to the TechNode newsroom

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

Nicole Jao

Nicole Jao is a reporter based in Beijing. She’s passionate about emerging trends, news, and stories of human interest within the world of technology. Connect with her on Twitter or via email: nicole.jao.iting@gmail.com.