PR gang arrested for faking authority to have negative stories removed

The suspects pretended they had legal authority after being paid by companies to have negative stories removed from news outlets.

Three suspects have been arrested and one put on bail for allegedly profiting by pretending they had the authority to make websites remove negative stories about certain companies, Shanghai police said on Thursday.

From the end of 2016, the gang allegedly profited over 3 million yuan (US$470,000) for having 1,000 new stories removed using this method. 

About 20 media outlets and 100 websites fell victim to the gang, police said.

Police started their investigation in January this year when the city’s cyberspace administration reported that a local media outlet received an email from an unknown person in the name of its hot-line center which accepts complaints about illegal and immoral information on the Internet.

The suspects, aged between 26 and 33, are from Guangdong, Zhejiang, Henan and Hunan provinces, police said.

They allegedly sought clients from the Internet and then sent fake legal notices or notices from the cyberspace authority to news media and websites on which the news stories appeared.

Police said they discovered about 500 fake Chinese ID cards, 100 fake stamps and 1,000 copies of fake notices when raiding the suspects’ locations.

About 300 companies paid for the service, according to police.

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