Chinese police arrest online reputation Mr Fix It

Man accused of orchestrating removal of unflattering internet content and manipulation of consumer surveys

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 5:59pm

Police in northern China have arrested a 36-year-old man who allegedly masterminded a multimillion-yuan operation to scrub the internet of unfavourable comments for clients, The Beijing News reported on Sunday.

The suspect, identified as Shen Ping, is accused of hiring more than a dozen people in nine cities and provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai, to manipulate online opinion of clients, the report said.

Shen had a master’s degree from a top Beijing university and worked for a well-known international internet company before starting out on his own, it said.

Chinese microblog firms told to spot and scrub ‘false information’ as censorship tightens

As well as trying to get content removed, Shen’s network would promote commercial products on the internet by flooding social media with postings and even manipulate consumer surveys, according to the report.

Tianjin police became aware of the network after officers noticed a man hurriedly trying to close browsers during a routine inspection at an internet cafe in November.

The man, identified as Zhang Jun, said he earned about 10,000 yuan (US$1,470) a month for flooding unfavourable internet posts with inappropriate content such as pornography, which would result in them being taken down, the report said.

The police investigation was hampered by clients who were unwilling to speak up but a “technological breakthrough” last month enabled the authorities to proceed.

Shen was arrested in Xiong county, Hebei province, in June after allegedly making more than 2.2 million yuan from the scheme in six months, the report said.

Police also seized computers, cellphones and bank cards valued at more than 8 million yuan.