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Online Attacks In China

While online attacks in the West tend to focus on stealing a company’s confidential information, attacks in China more often aims to damage a company or individual’s reputation.

For both domestic and international companies doing business in China, attacks on brand reputation pose a larger threat than many managers realize and there’s an army of journalists and bloggers willing and able to run deliberately misleading stories about your brand.

And with competition getting more aggressive, online attacks are expected to get even nastier.

In his new book Managing Online Reputation, Charlie Pownall, a communications consultant who recently relocated to London from Hong Kong, explains how companies and individuals can to handle their online reputation and not fall victim to peeved customers, aggrieved employees or online trolls.

How big a problem are online attacks on companies in China?

“There are many factors that make China’s online landscape uniquely challenging. The country has long been a brutally competitive place to do business and the internet, social media and mobile technologies make its’ dog eat dog business culture even more unpredictable, enabling companies to compete more aggressively on the one hand and to damage their competitors’ reputations much more easily on the other. Both are done with relish.

“Compared to the west, where online attacks tend to focus on stealing a company’s confidential information and customer data or crippling its IT infrastructure, and where ad hominem attacks on competitors are generally regarded as unacceptable, attacks in China are more often designed explicitly to damage a company or individual’s reputation. The ease with which people can be anonymous or pseudonymous online in China makes it difficult to know who is behind an allegation, and the huge volumes and incredible speed with which news, opinions and rumours circulate means it is extremely difficult to contain it. Then there’s the ease with which the mainstream media (and its political masters) can manipulate internet companies, social media platforms and online communities. There is also the fact that the laws governing online behavior are in some areas notoriously ill-defined and can appear to change arbitrarily.

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