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Jolt for online smear activities

11-12-2010 10:10 BJT

BEIJING - Online smear campaigns may find their wings clipped once Beijing introduces a real-name registration system for all Internet users.

A senior police officer surnamed Zhang with the network supervision department under the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau told China Daily the real-name registration will help prevent people from registering more than one account under fake identities.

Zhang, however, refused to specify when the system will be put into place.

The move comes in response to recent chaos in the country's Internet PR sector as an increasing number of companies have fallen victim to online threats.

Last month, police in Hohhot in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region arrested a manager at Mengniu Dairy after he allegedly orchestrated an online smear campaign against rival Yili Group by saying Yili's products could cause early sexual development in girls.

A police investigation suggested the smear campaign was launched by a Beijing-based Internet PR company.

Internet PR promotions in forums, blogs and videos to promote corporate images and appeal to potential customers have become more popular in China.

But there has been increasingly vicious competition among some companies, with false information and malicious attacks against rivals spread over the Internet, Zhang said.

"In general, about half of the top postings on famous forums were pushed to the top intentionally, rather than relying on click rates, " he said.

There are thousands of Internet PR companies in Beijing, a clerk surnamed Wang of the marketing department at the Beijing-based Huameishicai Technology Co Ltd told China Daily.

These firms can provide various kinds of services, such as online product marketing, Internet PR and crisis management.

"If you want to promote products or a concept, we will make a detailed plan for you," Wang said. "Usually we sign a three-month contract, and during the period we will promise you thousands of visits on websites, blogs or forums."

The charge is 2,000-5,000 yuan ($290-730) a month, he said.

"If you want more online visits, we can arrange for more manpower."

Qian Jun, a Beijing-based lawyer, said that people who maliciously attack competitors or individuals online have breached the law and should be held liable.

"But the tough issue facing us is many companies registered addresses from abroad, which is difficult to investigate," he said.

However, the real-name online registration system is a double-edged sword, which will be unlikely to root out online publicity smears, according to Qian.

"On one hand, we should encourage the public to spread information aimed at supervising government and society," he said.

"On the other, when vicious online attacks are found, the police should immediately intervene and disclose them to warn others who want to do the same thing."

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: China Daily

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