China’s black PR market has been an open secret. The infamous industry is run by firms that specialise in removing content and information from the internet that can damage a brand or person’s reputation, usually for a very high fee.
Online buzz says that Beijing-based magazine Caixin posted an article that provided detailed information on how the market runs. The article posted on the internet was allegedly taken down quickly, according to Ars Technica. Nonetheless, the New York Times’ Chinese portal had retained a copy.
Detailed information about China’s heavily censored internet is scarce. Little is known about the so-called “Great Firewall of China” and the 50-Cent Party, a state-funded scheme that ensures nationalistic comments are always present on the net.
Caixin’s English-language portal previously ran an article that exposed the inner workings of Yage, a very profitable firm that specialises in erasing content for important people such as local police chiefs and politicians in “second- to third-tier cities,” for exorbitant fees. It also caters to corporate clients including Volkswagen, Pizza Hut and China Mobile.
Interestingly, Yage’s founder Gu Dengda is presently one of the ten black PR experts who have been arrested by the police. He is awaiting trial on several criminal charges including bribery.
Specifically, the article revealed that Yage pocketed more than 50 million yuan (US$7.9 million) in profits in 2011. The article’s summary at TechInAsia also disclosed that “getting a post deleted could cost from 1,000 to more than 10,000 RMB ($150 to $1500 or more), and getting a search keyword blocked costs more than 100,000 RMB ($16,000).”