Hangzhou court fines man, companies $138,000 for 'cyber troll army' scheme

Updated: Jul 10, 2024 Print
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A Hangzhou court has fined a man surnamed Yang and three of his companies a total of 1 million yuan ($138,000) for manipulating online content through a network of fake accounts.

Yang was also ordered to delete all fabricated information, deactivate over 1,200 fake accounts, and issue a public apology in national media, according to the Hangzhou Internet Court ruling.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Hangzhou Binjiang District People's Procuratorate. Prosecutors accused Yang of using his companies' platforms from 2021 to May 2022 to recruit a "cyber troll army" of part-time workers.

These individuals were allegedly paid to inflate the popularity of specific content, including films, online videos, games, and products, regardless of its truthfulness. They also reportedly targeted negative reviews with mass complaint reporting to have them removed.

Investigations uncovered over 1,200 fake accounts managed by the defendants, responsible for completing more than 240,000 paid tasks and generating over 9 million yuan ($1.2 million) in illicit profits.

The court determined that Yang's actions disrupted online discourse, unfairly influenced business operations, and infringed upon the public's right to accurate information. All defendants were found liable for civil infractions.

During the hearing, Yang and his companies acknowledged their wrongdoing, offered public apologies, and expressed willingness to compensate for the damage caused to public interest.

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