Paid deletion of negative reviews has formed a gray-black industry chain, expert advice

  Supervision of abnormal data through data docking system

  □ Our reporter Pu Xiaolei

  The Shushan Branch of the Public Security Bureau of Hefei City, Anhui Province recently cracked a case of infringing on citizens' information, arrested 12 suspects, and seized tens of thousands of citizens' personal information, involving more than 2 million yuan.

  This is a typical case of paid deletion of negative reviews for illegal profit.

  In recent years, public security organs in Tianjin, Zhejiang, Anhui and other places have uncovered many cases of deleting negative reviews, involving millions of yuan.

Moreover, criminal gangs often involve many places, and even more than 10 provinces are involved in some cases.

  In 2008, paid deletion of negative reviews appeared. Although relevant departments continued to upgrade regulatory measures, this phenomenon has not been cured, and a gray-black industry chain has been formed.

  Zhu Xiaojuan, associate professor at the School of Civil, Commercial and Economic Law of China University of Political Science and Law, and deputy secretary-general of the China Law Society's Commercial Law Research Association, said in an interview with reporters that, in essence, evaluation is a credit mechanism that is crucial for network operators.

Because of this, there is a huge market demand for paid deletion of negative reviews, which is also an important reason why this problem is difficult to cure.

  "Considering the long-term, complex, and arduous nature of rectifying and removing negative reviews for compensation, it is necessary to establish and implement a long-term mechanism, including law enforcement departments to increase law enforcement supervision and network platforms to strengthen governance, etc. At the same time, promote the network as soon as possible. The data connection between the platform and the regulatory department realizes the early warning and supervision of abnormal data." Zhu Xiaojuan said.

  The amount involved in the case involves millions of yuan and involves multiple provinces

  It took about 3 months for the Shushan Branch to crack the case against citizens' information.

  In December 2021, the Shushan Branch received an alarm from the masses, saying that someone "buyed" user information with bad reviews on the Internet enterprise platform at a high price, and then induced such users to delete the bad review information by using "benefits fee" to make huge profits. .

After police investigation, a technology company in Henan was behind all this.

On February 24 this year, the task force closed at the same time in Henan, Anhui and other places.

  The amount involved in the case is several million yuan, involving multiple provinces and gangs. Such cases of paid deletion of negative reviews are not uncommon in recent years.

  For example, in September 2020, the Hebei Branch of the Tianjin Public Security Bureau cracked a criminal case involving illegal business activities in the form of an online "water army".

It is understood that the criminal gang made nearly 3 million yuan through paid deletion of negative online reviews, involving more than 10 provinces.

  In recent years, the police have cracked down on the paid deletion of negative reviews, and gang crimes have become the most common way, and a gray-black industry chain with a clear division of labor has been formed.

In this industry chain, there are online public relations companies that "solicit business", personal intermediaries that "introduce business", and post deletion personnel "responsible for implementation".

  The reporter searched the Internet and found that there are still some self-proclaimed "professional deletion evaluation companies" advertising that they can help delete bad reviews.

After adding the contact information of several companies, some "professional deletion evaluation companies" staff said that they could help delete negative reviews within a month. Depending on the platform, the charges ranged from hundreds to thousands of yuan.

However, these "professional deletion review companies" will not tell you how to delete negative reviews, but only say that it will definitely be effective.

  Yao Zhiwei, a professor at the Law School of Guangdong University of Finance and Economics, pointed out that there are two main ways to delete bad reviews: one is that a criminal gang takes the initiative to contact the merchants with bad reviews, charges to delete the bad reviews, and the other buys the information of consumers who have bad reviews and gets in touch After that, they are induced to delete negative reviews for a fee, and then earn a considerable price difference; the other is that criminal gangs request websites to delete posts on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the facts and suspected of infringement by means of massive complaints and forged lawyers’ letters. Will delete the post to avoid trouble.

  Violating consumer rights and disrupting market order

  The paid deletion of negative reviews not only damages the rights and interests of consumers and disrupts the market order, but also brings more management costs to the market supervision department.

  "In online consumption, goods and services are displayed in pictures and videos. Browsing and analyzing comments is an important way for them to understand goods and services. Once the negative comments are deleted, consumers have no important reference and cannot Make judgments and choices that are most in line with your true intentions, and your right to know and your right to choose will be compromised." Zhu Xiaojuan said.

  Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Communication Law Research Center of China University of Political Science and Law, also believes that the paid deletion of negative reviews damages online credit, and damages consumers' right to know and free choice, "because now the reputation of e-commerce is based on transaction volume and praise, As shown by the bad reviews, swiping orders and deleting bad reviews provide consumers with wrong information, and choices made based on this information also go against consumers’ consumption desires.”

  Not only that, the paid deletion of negative reviews also disrupts the market order of fair competition and increases the supervision cost of the regulatory authorities.

  In Zhu Xiaojuan's view, the paid deletion of negative reviews will affect businesses that provide similar products and services on the online platform, reducing their opportunities to provide products and services, which is unfair competition, disrupts the market order, and increases supervision costs.

  In 2013, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate issued the Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in Handling Criminal Cases such as Defamation by Using Information Networks, which identified serious online deletion of posts as a crime of illegal business operations.

Since then, the national regulatory authorities have become more and more strict with the management of paid deletion of posts on the Internet.

  In recent years, the National Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other departments have carried out several special actions against "paid deletion of posts", and have clearly established and implemented a long-term mechanism.

  Strengthen the protection of consumers' personal information

  Chinese laws expressly prohibit the act of deleting negative reviews for compensation, and provide corresponding penalties.

  The E-commerce Law stipulates that operators of e-commerce platforms shall not delete consumers' comments on the products sold or services provided on their platforms.

The law also stipulates that if the operators of e-commerce platforms "delete consumer reviews without authorization", the market supervision and management department shall order them to make corrections within a time limit, and may impose a fine of not less than 20,000 yuan but not more than 100,000 yuan; if the circumstances are serious, a fine of 100,000 yuan may be imposed. A fine of not less than 10,000 yuan but not more than 500,000 yuan.

  Yao Zhiwei said that the paid deletion of negative reviews not only violated consumers' right to know, but also disrupted the normal business order.

If the circumstances are serious, they may be suspected of various crimes such as the crime of illegal business operation and the crime of illegally invading computer information systems.

  In addition to regulations for e-commerce platform operators, there are also prohibitive regulations in my country's Personal Information Protection Law and other laws for some acts of "harassing consumers and deleting negative reviews".

  "For the governance of paid negative review removal, the most effective way is to increase the protection of consumers' personal information. As long as these 'bad review companies' cannot contact consumers, this problem can be solved to a large extent. Solve it." Yao Zhiwei said.

  Zhu Xiaojuan believes that solving the problem of paid deletion of negative reviews cannot only rely on the supervision of the online platform itself. "The online platform itself is a commercial entity, and it also has a profit-seeking side. The operators on the platform are the main providers of platform profits, which may Affect the active supervision of online platforms for the abnormal behavior of operators on the platform.”

  Zhu Xiaojuan suggested to find a solution at the technical level and promote the data connection between the network platform and the market supervision platform. This will not only reduce the cost pressure of the regulatory department, improve the efficiency of supervision, but also promote the network platform to significantly reduce and significantly reduce negative reviews in a timely manner. The abnormal data such as the instant increase of praise will be captured, and then the relevant laws and regulations will be better implemented.