How to Uncover “Pushing Hand” Operations

How to Uncover “Pushing Hand” Operations

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4578-3.ch008
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Abstract

This chapter suggests how individual netizens or companies can uncover “pushing hand” operations. It is vitally important that Internet users, either corporations or individuals should acquire some knowledge and skills in identifying Internet mercenary marketing schemes since unrestricted information manipulation has grown to such a large scale that it led to a media claim that 70% of visits to the Chinese Internet derived from pushing hand operations. Evaluating information and deciding whether it is in fact a genuine recommendation from netizens or managed information from pushing hands is not an easy task. Several clues of online information evaluation are provided.
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Introduction

This chapter suggests how individual netizens or companies can uncover “pushing hand” operations. It is vitally important that Internet users, either corporate users or individual users should acquire some knowledge and skills in identifying Internet mercenary marketing schemes since unrestricted information manipulation has grown to such a large scale that it led to a media claim that 70% of visits to the Chinese Internet derived from pushing hand operations. Evaluating information and deciding whether it is in fact a genuine recommendation from netizens or managed information from pushing hands is not an easy task. Several clues of online information evaluation are provided.

It said that over 100 IPR companies in Beijing “almost control the directions of public opinions on the Internet” (Du, 2010). It continued:

In this emerging food chain of Internet hatchet men, “public information” is held as hostage by them and as foodstuff to be shared and devoured. …Today, 338 million Internet users in China can not escape the manipulation of Internet opinions. Every mouse click of yours is likely to be deceived – those “hot topics” you care about may be sophisticatedly packaged.… The most democratic and open Internet space has now been eroded considerably by the “network triad.” Domestically well-known forums are almost all under control of Internet information manipulators. More than 70% of the total visits to forums are “pushing hands” or “hatchet men,”1 at least more than half of daily postings in major forums are somewhat manipulated. They work for at least tens of thousands of companies including even many Fortune 500 companies (Du, 2010).

Although it is difficult to prove the claim that “more than 70%”of the total visits to major forums were generated by pushing hands, what is certain is that Internet mercenary operations are prevalent on the Chinese Internet. They have become a mature industry with sophisticated strategies of information management involving both scientific approaches and creative innovations. A question hence arises, to what extent the information we receive on the Internet could be considered genuine and trustworthy? In other words, to have a better evaluation of public information online, it is crucially important to know how to uncover pushing hand operations. This issue is just as critical for businesses and advertisers as for journalists and individual consumers.

Business owners need to obtain genuine and un-managed information to understand real opinions of their customers towards their products so that they can make intelligent business decisions. However, as the Internet is riddled with fabricated information of “praises” or “smears,” it is difficult for entrepreneurs to identify who are real customers and who are pushing hand working for competitors. They also need to be alert to covert smear campaigns launched by “hatchet men” to protect the reputation of their brand. Some negative word of mouth comments from Internet users may not be authentic; they may even be part of an illegal operation by a forum or website in order to hold companies concerned for blackmail or a ransom. Advertisers should be aware of these pushing hand techniques as well. Some of the promotional metrics may look impressive, but they may not have real effect on real customers. For example, some celebrity blogs which have millions of clickviews may be a creation just for advertising purposes and have very limited page views by real readers.

It is critical for mainstream media journalists to have a solid knowledge about how IPR works to enlist the amplifying effect of mainstream media. If they are not scrupulous enough, they may be taken advantage of, and act as a free venue for, an Internet mercenary project. As we demonstrated previously that in many cases of Internet pushing hands, traditional media made a fool of themselves by playing into the hands of Internet mercenaries – in other words, they were tricked. This point is prominently illustrated in the cases of Jia Junpeng and Kneeling Mother.

Of course, individual consumers are the ones who need to learn the most the knowledge of pushing hands and their techniques in information management. They necessitate candid and trustworthy opinions from individual users about products and brands, which may help them make wise purchase decisions. However, how can they judge the truthfulness of all those individual testimonials about brands or products flooding on the Internet? The following are some typical examples of individual testimonials on a dress.

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